By Kyle Ritland
Solar energy is in the news a lot lately. With a rate case currently under review for APS, and similar rate shifts recently completed at both SRP and TEP, it may be difficult to discern exactly what is happening with Arizona’s solar industry. It would be easy to assume that things aren’t going so well — with solar companies seemingly lining up on one side, and the utilities on the other. The truth, however, is that the energy industry isn’t quite so cut and dry.
How people power their lives is evolving, and solar energy was an early player in this journey. For the first time, consumers were given a genuine choice of where and how they could acquire electricity. Solar stands as a shining example of our free market at work and perfectly demonstrates how disruptive technology can spur innovation.
Today — still very early in the clean energy revolution — people’s consumption patterns are also evolving. The proliferation of new technologies like electric cars or liberal work-from-home programs is completely changing decades of predictable supply and demand patterns.
Amidst all this change, solar cannot stand alone. People count on utilities to power their homes at night. Conversely, utility companies need the solar industry to understand better how consumers use electricity inside their homes. After all, solar companies have spent years on the front lines designing highly personalized energy solutions. What’s more, a growing number of utility companies are hungry to demonstrate their commitment to renewables as waves of environmentally savvy consumers enter the market. All these factors have rewarded the solar industry with years of exponential job growth. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, solar employment grew by nearly 25 percent.
Solar is here to stay, and the most forward-thinking utility companies know that collaboration, not confrontation, is the key to building a more sustainable future. This explains why Sun Valley Solar Solutions, along with other leading Arizona-based solar installers, worked closely with APS to reach a settlement in advance of this year’s rate case vote. Thanks to that effort, we now know where APS is heading, and the solar company is already working on innovative solutions to maximize savings under the new rates that will be rolled out later this year.
Here are three major technology shifts you can expect from the solar industry in the coming years:
- Next generation systems will be smarter and more interactive: this approach is referred to as “smart solar,” and these systems will include things like intelligent inverters, demand mitigation devices, and high-efficiency AC systems — all networked and accessible to the homeowner online or through a smartphone. The idea is to empower homeowners to keep as much solar-generated energy inside the home, rather than sending excess electrons back into the utility grid.
- Those who engage in solar with their personal energy use will save big: Utility companies want your help to manage electrical demand. The more customers can keep bursts of short-term excessive energy consumption to a minimum, the more the utilities are prepared to reward those efforts. The tools described above as part of the “smart solar” ecosystem will enable customers to tap directly into the savings potential of these demand-based rate plans.
- Energy storage will bring the promise of solar full circle: Batteries and other energy storage technologies extend the benefits of a rooftop solar throughout a full 24-hour day. Once people can use their excess solar electricity after the sun goes down, the utility grid can be relegated exclusively to backup duty. Innovation is happening very quickly in this category, and while it’s not quite there yet, battery capacity and cost is within a few years of being truly competitive.
More investment resources are flowing into renewable energy than ever before. This makes it all the easier to have faith in the future of solar. After all, the one thing we can absolutely count on is that the sun will rise in the morning.
As the VP of Marketing for Sun Valley Solar Solutions, Kyle combines his passions for marketing and sustainability to help customers better understand the value of Arizona’s most abundant natural resource. When not touting the benefits of solar, encouraging his friends to opt for paper over plastic, or growing his own vegetables, Kyle is generally found hiking with his pointer Toby or preparing a home-cooked meal for friends. “Don’t forget to compost!”
Read more articles about energy at greenlivingaz.com/energy.