While renewable energy gains momentum, people tend to think that the larger the energy installment, the better. Companies invest in fields of wind turbines and solar panels, and these are shown to the public to demonstrate the infrastructure and technology of which the U.S. is capable. While these large-scale installments definitely have their benefits, small-scale systems may be overlooked!
Small-scale solar has many advantages compared to large-scale, concentrated solar power systems. To differentiate the two types, a small-scale system feeds the direct energy load of a given facility. A large-scale system feeds the energy into a grid, which is then distributed (Read more).
First, location, location, location! Small-scale systems are installed on rooftops and grounds of businesses or homes that are otherwise underutilized. In large-scale solar, the placement of systems covers acres of land, consuming areas that could be used for other construction, agriculture, or wildlife habitats. As these larger systems are often placed in remote locations, there is also a transmission cost. This cost is both in the construction of transmission lines and in the energy lost in the transmission. “According to the EIA, line losses accounted for 6.5% of total electricity generation in 2007” (Read more). Why not build the solar system directly where the energy is needed?
Secondly, installing a small-scale system directly where the need is also allows for all areas of the state to benefit. If a large-scale solar system is constructed in Chicago, will the residents in East St. Louis feel direct benefits? With distributed solar, residents throughout the state can benefit as they install systems locally.
A new study, "Solar Power Generation in the U.S.: Too expensive or a bargain?," looks at the benefits that solar power generation delivers to utilities, ratepayers and taxpayers. This study shows that there is anywhere from 3-10 cents/kWh of hidden value specifically derived from distributed solar generation. This is generally due to reduced distribution energy losses, reduced distribution capacity wear, and enhanced grid stability (Read more).
But these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg! Join ISEA for the 2011 Illinois Solar Tour on October 1st to visit some local homes and businesses with small-scale systems and learn more. The Illinois Solar Tour is a FREE self-guided event that demonstrates how Illinois homes and businesses are using solar, wind, geothermal, passive solar design, and energy efficiency to be energy independent. Check out the official Solar Tour site and register!