Solar Power Works Best At Scale–At Least For Now
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
In the last two decades numerous state and local governments have passed laws that allowed homeowners with solar panels to sell any excess energy produced back to the local utility at above-average prices. Called “net metering,” the intent of this generous subsidy was to make solar panels more affordable and encourage more homes to install such panels. If more homes have solar panels, the thinking is, then less energy would need to come from traditional sources like coal or natural gas, and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced as a result.
However, net metering has proven to be problematic for both utilities and its (non-solar panel) customers: Technological developments portend that it may not only prove to be a hindrance for the development of large-scale renewable energy but that it could increase income inequality as well.
Virtually all solar customers remain connected to the grid and buy electricity from their utility – whenever the sun is not shining – and they still rely on the utility to maintain the wires, substations, transformers, and the entire infrastructure that moves electricity from the power plant to the customer. Absent a home battery array, a homeowner with solar must remain on the grid–and even those few who do have batteries remain tied to the grid in order to sell energy back to the utility.