RMI: When Will Customers Quit the Grid?

The Alamosa Solar Generating Project, located on 225 acres in the San Luis Valley near Alamosa, Colorado, is the largest high-concentrating solar photovoltaic power generation system in the world. It consists of more than 500 dual-axis, pedestal-mounted tracker assemblies, each producing 60 kilowatts. each tracker assembly is 70 feet wide by 50 feet high and contains 7,560 Fresnel lenses that concentrate sunlight by a multiple of 500 onto multi-junction cells. Photo by USGS Mineral Resources Program

Rocky Mountain Institute press release: Distributed electricity generation, especially solar PV, is rapidly spreading and getting much cheaper. Distributed electricity storage is doing the same, thanks largely to mass production of batteries for electric vehicles. Solar power is already starting to erode some utilities’ sales and revenues.

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But what happens when solar and batteries join forces? Together they can make the electric grid optional for many customers—without compromising reliability and increasingly at prices cheaper than utility retail electricity. Equipped with a solar-plus-battery system, customers can take or leave traditional utility service with what amounts to a “utility in a box.”

This “utility in a box” represents a fundamentally different challenge for utilities. Whereas other technologies, including solar PV and other distributed resources without storage, net metering, and energy efficiency still require some degree of grid dependence, solar-plus-batteries enable customers to cut the cord to their utility entirely.

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