Can You Waste Solar Power?

To most of us, solar power is synonymous with energy efficiency.

After all, the sun’s energy is virtually limitless, and sunlight doesn’t have to be mined or pumped from the ground. Plus, using the sun to create electricity doesn’t create harmful emissions or toxic byproducts that attract onerous governmental regulation.

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That said, solar energy can still be wasted, although not on an end-user level. Today, the only area where waste is a challenge for photovoltaic power systems involves — surprise — U.S. government-guided infrastructure.

How U.S. Solar Power Systems Waste Energy

In the U.S., building solar farms in the plains and deserts is cost-effective.

The land is inexpensive, and government tax credits, rebates and grants encourage growth in these areas. But though the photovoltaic installations themselves are inexpensive, transmission lines to distribute solar power are not.

In fact, distribution components are not typically eligible for financial incentives.

As a result, the United States has seen extensive investment in solar farms, but much less development on the transmission end. Consequently, our photovoltaic power systems sometimes produce more electricity than the grid can handle. Whenever that happens, energy production must be curtailed, or turned off completely.

For example, one Tuesday last July, grid operators in California had to curtail 292 megawatt hours of solar electricity because they had no way to transmit it to users.

Solving the Inefficiencies of U.S. Solar Power

Better financial incentives for solar power distribution can certainly help, but the solution to this type of energy waste may lie in technological development.

More robust lines that can transmit electricity over greater distances is one way to ensure that our country can use all of the photovoltaic energy it produces. Reconfiguring the national power grid design in some areas may also help. The Texas utility grid, for example, is not currently connected to power grids in neighboring states.

Larger investments in the storage market can also help to resolve the solar energy waste problem. With the adoption of better storage technologies, the excess photovoltaic power could be held until the utility grid has room for its transmission.

Can You Avoid Energy Waste with Your Solar Power System?

As we pointed out above, solar waste is not generally an issue for the end-user, unless your local utility company has an issue.

If your photovoltaic array is connected to the utility grid, and if it produces more electricity than your household needs, the excess isn’t typically wasted. Instead, it is sent back to the grid, and the utility company issues you net metering credits.

If the utility company and local grid reach transmission capacity, however, your excess power may indeed go to waste.

To avoid this, consider investing in a hybrid photovoltaic system. Hybrid systems remain connected to the grid, but they also have battery banks to store excess electricity. You can use energy stored in these batteries whenever you need it, such as in the event of a power outage.

Intermountain Wind & Solar has many hybrid PV power options, suitable for commercial and residential applications of all sizes and capacities. Our professional team can design an efficient, waste-free photovoltaic system to power your home or business. Contact us today to schedule your complimentary solar power consultation.

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