We Could Start Saving the Planet Today
Last week, I attended the Western Governors’ Association meeting, a non partisan gathering of state governors, staff and industry focused on improving how the west collaborates on regional problems. Several speaker panels focused on how best to make progress in generating energy from renewable sources.
It’s frustrating. Almost all of the conversations focused on how to deploy more transmission facilities to move electricity from far away generation facilities to heavy demand areas (think Montana wind powering Arizona homes). States pointing fingers at each other, NIMBY, environmental concerns, financing, lack of certainty, litigation and unwieldy approval processes, etc., etc. Somehow every conversation about renewable energy generation gets mired down in the seemingly endless issues associated with building new transmission facilities.
But all renewables are not created equal. Solar photovoltaics (PV) can be deployed today without major new transmission facilities. Right now. At heavy load centers near you and me. And, I don’t mean just a few panels on your rooftop. Wholesale distributed generation from solar PV (solar farms ranging from 10-20 megawatts (MW)) is deployable today on land located near existing transmission facilities. Those solar farms could be scattered across the grid, powering 4,400-8,800 homes each during peak hours. How do I know? The California PUC said so in its report analyzing ways to meet the proposed 33% RPS goal for 2020. The report determines that large amounts of distributed generation (solar PV) could accelerate California’s achievement of its 2020 RPS goal. It also located over 2.2 gigawatts (GW) of ground-mounted appropriate locations that could be easily (read: quickly and cheaply) deployed. That’s more than six times the total solar PV deployed today in the US — with zero new transmission.
We all understand new transmission facilities must be part of our long term solution to cleaner energy generation, but that shouldn’t prevent us from making meaningful progress with solar right now!