The week of Nov. 10 was a big one for solar energy news. A climate deal between the US and China means demand for solar energy could grow even faster than it has been. The Navy signed a deal with SolarCity to install rooftop solar panels on 6,000 on-base housing units and the first solar road opened in the Netherlands.
The solar road is, by far, the sexiest of the solar news stories this week. Dutch company, SolaRoad engineered the 230-foot stretch of bike path that was installed and opened in Krommenie this week. The path, which includes solar panels encased in concrete and topped with treated glass, is expected to generate enough energy to fully power three homes.
The bike path is intended to be a three-year test of the technology that could prove it for roadways. With nearly 30 percent of the Dutch population commuting by bike, paths in the Netherlands get significant traffic, making it an ideal place to test this technology on a small-scale, but with heavy traffic and use.
Solar advocates celebrated last week when staff at the Arizona Corporation Commission recommended that the state’s largest utility not be allowed to get into the rooftop solar business.
The recommendation is not binding but commissioners will weigh it heavily when making their decision.
Arizona Public Service, the state’s biggest utility, has gained a reputation for trying every which way to thwart expanding distributed solar companies.
Right now solar panels provide less than 1 percent of the energy needs in the United States. But all indications are that we’ve reached the tipping point and the growth from here will be exponential.
The International Energy Agency estimates that solar will be the world’s biggest source of power by 2050. How?
If utility companies start installing rooftop solar panels, does it make them clever or greedy?
The answer is probably a bit of both. If they would have had any vision or foresight, utility companies would have started their own distributed generation and rooftop solar enterprises years ago when their emerging competition did. Maybe 2010 or 2011 would have been good years to jump on the bandwagon.
But just as Blockbuster (remember the brick and mortar video rental stores?) waited until Netflix stomped on its market share to start its own mail-in rental service, utility companies are showing up a bit late to the party.
In theory, it’s a great idea for utilities to offer rooftop solar to their customers. Their deep pockets and customer access could lead to tremendous gains for solar adoption.