Monday, April 23, 2012

Solar parity in Maine -- already

Regular readers will know that I've been saying for many years that solar PV will soon achieve grid parity, and that when it does, we will then have a powerful tool to simultaneously reduce climate emissions and develop national and regional energy independence

For a few months now we've been hearing stories about new solar PV installations by our friends and colleagues at ReVision Energy in Liberty. Apparently these installations run on the leaseback/PPA model and, through creative financing, can undercut retail power costs by one or two cents per KWH.

I think this is a swell piece of news.

Better yet, now the college is considering a sizable installation too.

Not only do I get a great deal of pleasure in seeing grid parity achieved right here in Maine, but I'm a big supporter of this excellent company, where a lot of the employees are former students.

Solar PV is clearly one of the solutions to climate change.  And I'm proud that our alumni are being part of the solution.

Not only can we reduce emissions, but we can also gain a great regional and local economic multiplier.

There's one caveat: The nature of grid balancing on our region is such that most of the ISO-New England emissions that will be offset by these panels will be peak emissions, and therefore most likely from peaking combined cycle natural gas plants, not coal plants.

But even if the impossible were to occur and someone invent a solar panel that worked during the night in Maine when the grid is off-peak, the "mix" of energy in New England is such that any emissions offset would most likely be from gas and not coal.

In other words, what we need next is solar parity in other states, especially those where the mix is coal-rich. That will take a little while yet. Maine has expensive power, about twice the cost of power in the cheapest states. If, ceteris paribus, all things were equal, then for other states, the price of an installation will have to drop by perhaps another fifty percent before parity can be achieved.

But all things are not equal. Other states have more sun, so that will help.

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