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The Power of Solar Energy to Offset Peak Electric Demand

EmmamHowe MA, United States 0 Ratings 13 Discussions 8 Group posts

Posted by: EmmamHowe // Marketing/Green Policy Development

The past few months, summer has been hitting the United States with full force. 2016 has slashed heat records, and temperatures over the past few months have been significantly hotter than the historical average. Other than causing us to drink more water and put on more sunscreen, this also means we’ve been using our air conditioning systems more often as we seek shelter inside our homes from the intense heat. This collective increase of electricity and energy puts intense pressure on the electric grid, leading to brownouts, an unintentional drop in voltage in an electrical power supply system. Thus, utilities may ask both companies and homeowners to limit their electricity usage during usual periods of peak electric demand, and some utilities also increase costs for electricity users during these periods.

First off, you may be asking, what is peak electric demand? Peak demand describes a period in which we expect electrical power to be provided for a prolonged period of time at a significantly higher level than the average supply level. Peak demand fluctuates based on the day, month, season, or year, and we are more likely to see higher peak demand in the summertime due to all of this air conditioning. To meet this higher than usual demand, utilities must use alternate, less cost effective, less efficient energy sources to keep up with the increase in energy consumption. Thus, when this excess demand is not met, the electric grid is more susceptible to brownouts.

How can utilities meet this peak demand without inducing brownouts? This is where renewable technologies like Solar energy can make a great difference. Since peak periods of electricity use in the summer usually occur on hot, sunny afternoons, Solar energy is a great solution to combat these periods as this is also the prime time for solar generation. This is great news since reducing peak demand on the grid by using clean, green solar power will not only reduce the likelihood of summer brownouts and rolling blackouts, but it is also cost effective and environmentally friendly.

According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a research organization that analyzes financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment, installing efficient rooftop solar arrays can help reduce peak energy prices for every ratepayer in a given region. The article references a recent report from Sanford Bernstein & Co., a leading investment research firm, which pointed out a correlation between the amount of solar on the grid and peak demand pricing hours, finding that the rapid increase in the amount of solar PV available on the electricity grid in California—a seven-fold expansion in only four years, from 0.7 gigawatts in 2010 to 4.8 GW in 2014— was helping to reduce peak demand loads so much that peak prices were put off until later in the day, when demand was lower. They also point out the benefits to consumers as lower demand means lower prices. Another rooftop solar study, from the energy research firm Pecan Street Research Institute, conducted the same sort of study in Texas, finding that west-facing solar arrays were reducing peak demand from the grid in the summer by up to 65%.

There is clear evidence that mass distributed Solar Energy is not only causing fewer brownout and blackouts, but it also is creating a clear positive environmental impacts and is reducing electric bill costs for consumers. How do you feel about utilities purchasing Solar Energy to combat peak energy demand? Do you see this happening in your state/region? Why or why not? Comment below with your thoughts.

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