How distributed solar energy benefits all consumers

By Ben Delman on May 25, 2017

Residential solar is often referred to as a ‘distributed’ energy source. This is because the sources of the electricity generation are distributed across the electric grid. This contrasts with ‘centralized’ energy sources like coal, nuclear, or gas power plants. All of these energy sources provide electricity to the grid, but distributed energy sources provide unique additional benefits to consumers that centralized sources do not.

Solar panels produce electricity during the day. During these same daytime hours, higher overall electricity demand forces utilities to meet their customers’ energy needs with more expensively produced electricity. This in turn raises electricity prices for everyone. The addition of solar to the grid helps lower everyone’s cost of electricity by lowering energy demand from solar users while simultaneously adding daytime electric capacity to meet non-solar users’ needs.

Solar generation produces electricity at or near the site of demand. So, unlike electricity produced at large, centrally-located plants, distributed solar energy does not require expensive new investments in transmission or distribution lines. Producing electricity closer to demand is also more efficient. It is estimated that roughly 6% of electricity produced in this country is lost due to transmission.

Solar energy won’t continue its impressive growth if solar customers are denied from receiving a fair price for the electricity they generate. Nationwide, there are more than 260,000 workers in the solar industry. This figure is a 25% increase over the previous year. Most solar employment is in jobs, like installation, that can’t be outsourced. The growth of distributed solar energy resources leads to more good local jobs for West Virginia workers.

Lastly, distributed energy sources like solar enable everyday consumers to take ownership of where their electricity comes from. As West Virginians discuss how we’ll power the state moving forward, these added benefits of solar are critical points to keep in mind.