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Solar power is growing so fast that older energy companies are trying to stop it - Vox

Stashed in: Sticking it to The Man!, Singularity!, Energy!, Energy, Tesla!

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Once someone (Tesla?) invents efficient energy storage, their monopoly is over. 

This was a great article, Jared. Thank you for stashing!

That seems bizarre at first. Solar power provides just 0.4 percent of electricity in the United States — a minuscule amount. Why would anyone care?

But some utilities see things differently. As solar technology gets dramatically cheaper, tens of thousands of Americans are putting photovoltaic panels on their roofs, generating their own power. At the same time, 43 states and Washington DC have"net metering" laws that allow solar-powered households to sell their excess electricity back to the grid at retail prices.

That's a real problem for utilities. These solar households are now buying less and less electricity, but the utilities still have to manage the costs of connecting them to the grid. Indeed, a new study fromLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory argues that, without policy changes, this trend could soon put utilities in dire financial straits. If rooftop solar were to grab 10 percent of the market over the next decade, utility earnings could decline as much as 41 percent.

To avoid that fate, many utilities are now pushing for policies that would at least slow the breakneck growth of rooftop solar — say, by scaling back or modifying those "net metering" laws. And that's triggered a war with many fronts. There are conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in favor of eliminating solar subsidies altogether. There are solar advocates who'd prefer not to see any changes. And there are even some Tea Party groups coming out in favor of solar. Meanwhile, state regulators are struggling to find a workable compromise.

The battle over solar is now raging in more than a dozen states — from Arizona to Utah to Wisconsin to Georgia. (It's also flaring up abroad, in countries like Germany and Australia). Here's a broad overview of what's happening.

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So even though solar provides just 0.4 percent of America's electricity, it's growing at a shocking rate. Rooftop solar generation has roughly tripled since 2010. By some estimates, a new solar system is installed every four minutes in the United States.

To electric utilities, this poses a dilemma. As rooftop solar becomes more popular, people will buy less and less electricity from their local power company. But utilities still have plenty of fixed costs for things like maintaining the grid. So, in response, those utilities will eventually have to raise rates on everyone else. Trouble is, those higher electricity rates could spur even more people to install their own solar rooftop panels to save money. Cue the death spiral.

Human society is always on the lookout for sources of energy. From our mobile phones to the commercial airliner we need energy to run it all. Even though we know that we will run out of fossil fuels in the not-so-near future we continue to tap those resources and the reason for this is because we do not know how to effectively harness the forces of nature for our purposes. Moreover there is also the problem of pollution that has made it imperative that we find cleaner sources of energy. The Sun is a boundless source of energy and while every life form on earth depends on it for food and warmth, we have still been unable to harness this ubiquitous source of energy. This is where Space Based Solar Power (SBSP) comes into the picture as an alternative.

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