Distributed Generation Works Well for Solar Energy
Traditional power generation systems like coal, gas, and nuclear power plants, as well as hydroelectric dams and large solar farms, are centralized and usually require the electrical energy they produce to be transported over large distances. A distributed energy system (DER) is decentralized, being close to the load, they serve an area with small capacities of 10 megawatts or less.
The United States contains more than 12 million dedicated distributed generation units which are about one-sixth the capacity of the country's existing centralized power plants. Distributed energy is increasing for many reasons, with some of them being:
The price of solar panels has been falling since 2009, making it cost-effective for many businesses and homeowners.
- States and local governments are enacting policies which encourage the deployment of renewable technologies because of their benefits like energy security and emission reduction.
- When natural disasters strike, distributed solar energy is taken advantage of during power outages where traditional energy production would be halted for safety reasons. Distributed solar energy is also taken advantage of during high energy days.
- During hours of peak electricity use, grid operators rely on businesses to operate their onsite emergency generators to be able to maintain reliable service for all of their customers.
Distributed generation does its part in saving the environment by reducing the amount of electricity produced at centralized power plants. Centralized power generation has negative environmental impacts which are alleviated or reduced when making use of distributed solar generation.
The technology exists which makes distributed generation cost-effective to generate electricity at homes and businesses using renewable energy. The energy which would be wasted is harnessed. The wasted energy that occurs during 'line loss' or transmission and distribution of energy is eliminated by using locally distributed generation systems.
Distributed generation has many benefits, with some of them being avoided generation capacity costs, avoided transmission costs as they are usually constructed close to their subscribers, a lower need for backup power, and reduced air emissions. The American Public Power Association claims that distributed generation can play a huge role in meeting energy needs and lower our impact on the environment if distributed generation customers pay their share of the costs for the grids upkeep (operation and reliability). While this all sounds well and good, distributed generation has a few disadvantages which must be kept in mind, including:
- Distributed generation is difficult to monitor and impacts load forecasts.
- Companies have to make substantial capital investments to address potential strains on the system which will be borne by their customers whether they use distributed generation or not.
- 'Islanding' is a safety concern. Islanding is when the distributed generator continuously energizes a feeder even when there is an outage, and no power is being supplied by the utility.