The Solar Panel Scam

If you own solar panels, you aren’t being paid what they are worth.

That’s true even if you count the subsidies provided by the government.  That’s true regardless of where you live in the US.

The reason is that you, as an individual, don’t get the same prices that companies get when they sell power to the grid.

Let me explain this a bit.

Solar panels produce the most during the early afternoon during the summer months.

That, coincidentally, is when the grid is experiencing its peak demand.

At periods of peak demand, the electricity company has to pay up to 50 times more for electricity from power producers than it does during off-peak (i.e. the $0.04 kwh charged by hydroelectric facilities).

The problem?

Homeowners don’t get paid the peak price for the electricity their panels produce.  Instead, they get paid a price that’s less than retail.

That’s a scam.

This scam could turn rooftop solar into a strong source of retirement income nearly overnight if corrected.

Further, it’s a scam that can be easily corrected.

We have the technology to do it.  In fact, we’ve already deployed much of it.

Smart meters and time of use pricing systems make it possible to measure the contributions of roof-top solar in real time.

All we need to do is force utilities to stop scamming the people they are obligated to serve.


PS:  NRG, Sun Run, etc. are all betting on a future ability to get peak pricing for the electricity they are generating from the thousands of solar rooftops being installed/leased to homeowners.


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Discussion — One Response

  • John Robert BEHRMAN September 18, 2014 on 11:58 am

    Additional Considerations for Residential DC

    Thursday, October 17, 2013

    Some authors propose practical standards for residential construction based on ubiquitous direct-current especially for residential or office and residential premises. In effect, recent developments re-ignite the famous Edison-Tesla battle of the late nineteenth century.

    However, the highest and best use of alternating current remains high-voltage, long-distance transmission using lightweight lines and highly efficient devices for transforming the voltage or exploiting three phases of alternating current.

    Experiments with reversion to direct current usually involve 12-volt lighting fixtures or digital electronics. To be sure, these might be simplified by eliminating integral or external electrical storage or power conversion circuitry. But, even more benefit would come from complex integration with other devices and sources of power such as solar panels and automobiles with powerful batteries or capacitors.

    The most powerful “drivers” of re-standardizing around direct-current then are not retrograde, nostalgic, or necessarily residential:

    The use of batteries (or capacitors) with clean, efficient diesel prime-movers and direct-current auxiliary motors integrated into computer-controlled drive-trains. These can generate both desirable vehicle performance, fuel efficiency, and lower greenhouse gas or other emissions. Indeed, they already are. These changes are coming very fast indeed compared to anything involving nuclear power stations, public distribution grids, land-use planning, or construction standards. Very likely, automotive developments will focus on a “48-volt” integration standard with provision for high-voltage capacitors and bursts of high current on electromotive sub-circuits.

    I would mention that developments with vehicles parallel advances in naval propulsion and ordnance that have profound “spin-off” opportunities.

    The first commercial manifestation of automobile-centric redesign of residential and commercial buildings may be the “plug-out” hybrid vehicle which would furnish supplementary power on a premise-grid during outages or intervals of peak load on the public grid.

    But, the main source of peak-load on the public grid is heating and cooling of residential and commercial spaces.

    Just as industrial co-generation of electrical power and process-steam is leading to a robust and “smart” public grid, the new carbon-based materials and an “internet of things” can profoundly change the thermal aspects of architecture and construction standards. In fact, we have many more ways to store and circulate hot and cold liquids as well as electricity and information on a premise-grid so as to reduce or reverse peak-loading of the public-grid.

    In fact, proposals for the next iteration of the USB (universal serial bus) standard now focuses on DC power distribution and mechanical rather than logic issues.

    The potential is especially high for properties located with access to well-regulated public gas, power (AC), and telephone (DC) grids, … or not.

    The main question for the public at large today then is whether public networks are regulated for efficiency and resiliency as well as for public safety and economic security rather than just, say,to just maximize indirect taxation or to protect monopoly rent-sharing concessions. That was the central question back in the day DC and AC were issues that both Tesla and Edison lost to their rapacious political patrons. So, poor financial accounting and regressive taxation probably remain the main factor retarding private development and public adoption of complex but more practical new architectural and engineering standards.