CleanTECH San Diego - Unlocking the Potential of Solar Power



To most of the CleanTECH San Diego members attending a recent meeting at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel it seemed inevitable that solar would by be a large part of the electric power coming from alternative and sustainable sources in the future.

Keynote speaker Michael R. Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, presented both the potential and challenges for solar energy. The panelists, including Byron Washom, UCSD’s director of the Strategic Energy Initiative; Tom Dyer, Kyocera’s vice president of marketing and government affairs, and Daniel Drolet, vice president of business development for PCN Technology made known the problems of storage and transmission facing solar.

The panelists also pointed out the conflict between consumers using solar energy panels becoming self-sufficient in terms of energy use while still being charged for and dependent on the utility for access to the electric grid for emergency and back-up needs.

Speakers also noted that a few consumers are expressing privacy-related concerns as a result of the new meters being installed by SDG&E and other California utilities that register specific appliance usage and timing. Also, the new meters, being more accurate than those replaced, can result in higher charges to some utility customers, one speaker said.

Dyer noted the cost of solar panels has declined 40 percent to 50 percent in recent years and that solar is therefore increasingly attractive.

Nevertheless, Peevey said that solar currently accounts for about 2.5 percent of renewable energy deliveries whereas in 2020 it is expected to account for 37 percent.

Peevey talked about what he called unfortunate and unexpected delays in the implementation of solar power transmission due to CalFire’s failure to issue the necessary approvals for certain projects. Peevey was generally optimistic as to the future of solar energy but also realistic as to the bureaucratic challenges slowing the progress.

Byron Washom indicated that in the case of wind power the California producers had to sell the power generated at night to Arizona at very low prices as there was presently no ability to store the power once generated until it was needed.