Will Solar Panels Kill the Utility Companies?

Steven Lake
Steven Lake Solar Expert Posts: 402 ✭✭

Interesting story about the growth of solar panels. Honestly I don't see solar panels replacing the utilities. At least not until people actually start getting smart about energy use.


  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,439 admin
    I will move this into the Open Discussion forum...

    I kind of find it interesting that Bill Gates and world wide spread Viruses concern--The same guy that is pretty much on of the main folks responsible for the world wide digital virus spread via persona computers due to poor programing practices and poor security (although, not just him--The first viruses I saw were on Macs + Floppies--But Windows certainly was not far behind).

    And his use of the Spanish Flu as some mystical health event without acknowledging what is already known/theorized--Does not help anything. From the article:
    What's even more frightening, Gates says, is that we don't even know where the Spanish Flu came from — it was just called the "Spanish Flu" because the press in Spain were the first to report on it.


    It appears that Spanish Flu was spread was based on decisions (frequently governments and companies) that were contrary to good health practices (then and now). Sort of like the digital spread of contagions like we have today (which, arguably, can also be laid at the feet of governments and companies that encourage/fund these "data leakage" technologies these days for spying and profit).

    -Bill "does this Tin Foil Hat make my butt look big?" B.
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • SolarPowered
    SolarPowered Solar Expert Posts: 626 ✭✭✭
    As long as the NEC 120% back feed rule applies. As long as regulation to build to 110% of last years

    consumption is enforced for NEM aggregation, we will always be dependent on grid infrastructure.

    If you live in an area that has grid infrastructure and that property is tied into a transformer, no matter what. You always have to pay for the use of that transformer.

    Solar is dependent on feed in tariffs, to accelerate the return on a solar system to achieve net zero, and free power for roughly 18years of the systems cycle.

    We depend just as much on utility, just as much as the utility depends on us.

    Now if the over production value was $.07kW VS the $.0397 kW payout. Producers need the utility, or there is no one to pay into each other's investment.

    It's fair to say that the utility company will always exist, and as technology grows and demands more power for a growing society, solar will always be behind the utility industry unless the conversion rate of a solar panel exceeds what it yields today.

    I don't see what bill gates and the spanish flu had to do with this topic.
    Must of been a bad link.

  • Johann
    Johann Solar Expert Posts: 245 ✭✭✭
    Let's face it. Utility companies do not like consumer operated panels. Such panels will cause to many problems per utility companies, but solar panels seem to have no problems if utility companies are operating them. As long as utility companies making money they have no problem with solar, just look at the extra fees that utility companies are charging to home solar operators that are grid tied. In arizona they charge $50 to hook solar panels into the grid and may go up to $100 a month if I am correct.

    The heck, for that I would take the panel off the grid and use solar power directly at day time without the control or a big fee of the utility company. IE solar powered AC, water heater, lights, etc etc and I still would save grid power without having to pay a fee.

  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,439 admin
    That may be the next step (guerrilla "day time" solar power through grid isolation/transfer switches). However--In California (at least), just having solar electric panels on the roof can be subject to utility/state puc adjudication.

    More or less, the State PUC has "promised" the utility an exclusive contract for customers in their region... And have wired/paid for power plants/taken out loans/etc. based on that promise. If I was to go off grid solar and disconnect from the grid, I could get hit with a "departure fee" --- Basically having to refund investment capital that the utility spent "in my name".

    Here are a couple of posts about our utility (PG&E):


    And some towns will "red tag" a home with no utility connection.

    How often that is enforced (if ever), I really do not know.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Steven Lake
    Steven Lake Solar Expert Posts: 402 ✭✭
    Around here, so long as you live in a structure that is lived in more than 2 months a year total, you're required by state law to be hooked to the grid. That doesn't mean you you have to actually use grid power. You just have to be hooked to it. My goal with the family farm is to move everything off grid. I mean, the whole 9 yards. So far we're about 20% in and progressing well, although I feel like a Neanderthal trying to do all this by myself. On the upside, I haven't burned anything down yet, so that's a plus. :P Anyhow, once all the out buildings are pure solar I intend to tackle the house. However, when we do that I'm hauling in the big guns, because i intend to have them install a master throw for the power on the house in the same way we have for the generator right now (or perhaps I'll just tie into that, replacing the backup genny with an off grid solar array and skip the extra work) and then just let the power company meter atrophy on the pole. I've heard of others doing that where if you pull no power for a time they just yank the meter and cancel your account. Per state law we'd still be legal as we'd still "technically" be connected to the grid even though we'd have no meter. But that's the funny part as, if the power company pulls the meter, we're still legal. But if we have them do it, then it's not. I know, odd loophole, but it works. :D
  • SolarPowered
    SolarPowered Solar Expert Posts: 626 ✭✭✭
    Be carefull in doing so.

    My thought is if you are on grid there is no logic to going off grid because of the cost impacts, logistics, and investment of battery equipment.

    -maintenance costs to maintain battery system.
    -replacement of aged batteries

    In proportion to grid system. Grid tied is much more efficient on harvest and a 3rd less in scale compared to off grid systems.

    Even with lithium battery systems the harvest efficiency isn't captured the way harvest is delivered to the grid.

    If you have grid it makes no sense.

    Uncle Sam and the utility companies are all organizations looking to get paid one way or another.

    You can't beat the system on any investment capital scale.
  • sub3marathonman
    sub3marathonman Solar Expert Posts: 300 ✭✭✭
    BB. wrote: »
    However--In California (at least), just having solar electric panels on the roof can be subject to utility/state puc adjudication.


    Is there any documentation for this practice? PV panels, just on the roof, not grid-tied to the utility?

    It sounds like Lakeland Florida, where a lady was fined for a code violation for her heating oil tank. No, not that she had one, or that it was improperly located or unapproved, she was fined because it was empty!!!

    What is the justification for charging people for PV panels, whereas they aren't charged if they just turn off their a/c and save the same amount of power?

  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,439 admin
    My earlier posts (another thread), that PG&E link is now dead... You can try this one:


    I believe that your panels on the roof are a "departing" load to the utility... How it is enforced/how often--I haven't a clue.

    Rule 21 Ombudsman Information
    To address disputes regarding Rule 21 missed timelines, please contact PG&E’s appointed ombudsman.
    Brian Kirchner
    NEW! Apply for Rule 21 Non-Export Projects (Form 79-974) using our online application form.
    NEW! Apply for Rule 21 Export Projects (Form 79-1145) using our online application form.
    Distributed Generation (DG), also referred to as Retail Generators, applies to customers who install generators to reduce the amount of power they purchase from the utility or enter into a Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). These generators may be powered by solar, wind, hydro, fuel cell, or natural gas. They typically operate in parallel with Pacific Gas and Electric Company and may or may not sell their power to any third parties through a PURPA PPA. Sometimes they may, per California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Section 218, sell or provide electricity to other limited parties via a direct ("over the fence") transaction that does not otherwise use utility or ISO facilities.
    [h=2]DG Interconnection Basics[/h] The interconnection requirements for Distributed Generation (DG) are determined by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). DG generators are also referred to as Rule 21 Generators. Electric Rule 21 outlines the interconnection, operational and metering requirements for generating facilities that are connected to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) distribution system.
    Secondary Networks: Parts of San Francisco and Oakland are served by secondary network distribution lines, which pose special problems for interconnections. If you are planning a project in San Francisco or Oakland, please contact PG&E's Generation Interconnection Services department to discuss your plans, before you start work on your project.
    [h=3]Frequently Asked Questions[/h] [h=2]Where can I find an Electric Rule 21 application?[/h] DG interconnection procedures are contained in Rule 21. In addition to a completed Generating Facility Interconnection Application for Non-Export or certain Net Energy Metered Generating Facilities (Between 30 kW and 1,000 kW) (Form 79-974) or Rule 21 Exporting Generator Interconnection Request (Form 79-1145), applicants must also include a check for $800, made payable to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, along with all supporting documentation. To ensure that the application package is complete, refer to the following table:

    Item Requirements

    Make sure that ALL applicable sections for your generator are completed.

    Application Fee
    Electronic applications will not be deemed complete until the check for $800 is received (unless exempt).

    Site Plan
    Show generator location with respect to building, transformer, main switchboard, utility disconnect switch and other pertinent electrical equipment.

    Single Line Drawing
    Must include net generation meter (if required) and utility disconnect switch with manufacturer and model number.

    Three Line Drawing
    Required if the generator is not certified or an external relay is used.

    Proposed Relay Settings
    Required if the generator is not certified or an external relay is used.

    Protection Operating Description
    Required if the generator is not certified or an external relay is used.

    Submit the application package to Pacific Gas and Electric Company either by registered U.S. mail or by e-mail: gen@pge.com ATTN: Interconnection Services Mail Code N7L, P.O. Box 770000 San Francisco, CA 94177-0001.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,439 admin
    Regarding Lakeland Florida woman with empty fuel oil tank... I have not heard that one and could not finding anything about it.

    There was a Lakeland woman that was fighting the city about not having a city water connection: [h=3]Off Grid Living Banned[/h] But that was a much different case than what was presented... The basic issue was she was using the city sewer and all she had to pay was the minimum connection fee (basically the sewer tax) and she would have been fine.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • SolarPowered
    SolarPowered Solar Expert Posts: 626 ✭✭✭
    Just FYI electric rules are all set forth by FERC not the utility provider.

    Every state utility is to meet and confer with their state assembly to structure the electric rules and implement according to those rules.

    Only a few of the 43 states in NEM are conformed and current to the electric rules. FERC and CPUC have been working on the federal guidelines for the past few years now.

    California serves as the master template so other states may soon follow these guidelines.

    It's no different how the EPA enforces laws based on C.A.R.B ( California Air Resource Board). Only a few states do not follow those regulations, but then when it comes to federal funding those states are denied funding, for non compliance.
  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭

    California serves as the master template so other states may soon follow these guidelines.

    Do the other 49 states know about this? Judging by the posts from users here, they don't. Nor do the utilities within them, various public service commissions, nor AHJ's (some of whom are thicker than three planks).

    Before solar becomes a 'threat' to the grid PV will have to be around 90% efficient instead of 20%, there will have to be a sensible storage solution to keep that power harvested in 4 hours a day on hand for the other 20 hours, and people will have to stop living and working in piled up buildings which don't have enough square area to cover in PV sufficient to provide the power used within (otherwise the PV is out on a solar farm somewhere and has to be distributed via power grid, so what's the use?)

    At this point it isn't a matter of economics at all, it's a matter of technology not being advanced enough to make it possible, never mind practical.
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