FERC’s Wellinghoff Dead Wrong – Here’s Why

I just got this excellent link from a friend which explains distributed generation clearly and simply.  The article demonstrates clearly why Chairman Wellinghoff is dead wrong to be streamlining the FERC transmission process at this time.

The article includes the following list under the heading “Why Distributed Generation”.  How can Wellinghoff’s obsolete centralized grid compete with distributed generation?

There are a number of benefits to a democratized electricity system, in addition to the monumental shift toward energy self-reliance.

1. Vast potential and deployment speed.  Nearly every state could meet 20 percent of its electricity needs with rooftop solar PV alone.  Two-thirds of states have sufficient wind, solar and geothermal power to get 100 percent of their electricity from in-state (and distributed) sources.

Distributed generation can also come online much faster than centralized generation.  For example, while the entire world has installed barely 1,000 MW of centralized solar thermal power, Germany installed 7,400 MW of distributed solar PV in 2010 alone.   Similarly, large wind projects often experience long delays awaiting new transmission capacity whereas distributed wind projects can often connect to the grid without significant infrastructure upgrades.  Ontario’s feed-in tariff program, for example, provides fast-tracking for small-scale distributed generation (projects smaller than 500 kW) because it rarely creates significant grid impacts.

2. Favorable economics.  Some renewable energy technologies (with federal subsidies) already compete toe-to-toe with fossil fuel generation, and others – like solar – are rapidly becoming less expensive.  Furthermore, the vast majority of economies of scale for renewable energy technologies are captured at a modest size, well within accepted size definitions of distributed generation.

3. Local ownership and political support.  The economic impact of locally owned renewable energy projects can be several times greater than absentee-owned projects, and distributed generation lends itself to ownership.  Such local ownership also dramatically increases local acceptance of more renewable energy production.  And because it’s a more efficient use of the electricity grid, distributed generation reduces the number of political fights over new high-voltage transmission lines.

The political support for distributed generation also stems from its inherent democratic nature.  By dispersing the sources of power generation and opening the grid to producers large and small, a distributed grid allows for maximum participation in power production, creating a constituency for supporting the expansion of clean energy and distributed generation.

4. Value to the grid.  Distributed generation is more resilient to disruption, with power generation spread over thousands of generators and over a wide geographic area.  This makes it harder for a large area to be without power and easier to maintain grid stability.

A distributed grid can also be more efficient, by maximizing the potential of existing infrastructure.  In California, the Public Utility Commission requires utilities to publish data on “sweet spots” on their grids and assist distributed energy developers to plug in where it’s of greatest benefit.  This efficient usage can reduce the demand for new grid infrastructure, particularly expensive high-voltage transmission lines.

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