The Benefits of a Green Power Grid

Skeptics of clean energy argue that more technology like solar and wind on the grid would mean instability, higher prices, and economic harm. But moving to a more sustainable power grid hasn’t caused the destabilization or issues critics predicted. In fact, the transition has come with many benefits beyond mitigating climate change. These include lower and more stable energy prices, as well as resilience to natural disasters and other interruptions.

California, Massachusetts, New York, and Colorado are a few of the states that have seen a lot of success with community solar programs. They have overcome some of the obstacles in accessibility like pricing and siting that rooftop solar faces, and community solar distributes the financial benefits of solar more equitably than rooftop solar does.

But it’s not just traditionally “blue” states that have had success integrating clean energy. Texas, Alabama, Iowa, and Idaho have also been leaders in installed capacity. Texas is a great example, it hit a milestone with 18% of its energy coming from wind and solar. “The 18 percent number matters because for years critics of renewable energy have argued that grid costs and reliability will spiral out of control before we hit 20 percent wind and solar. But in Texas, retail electricity prices have actually decreased, coming in well below the U.S. average.” If a conservative state like Texas can make wind work to their benefit, it seems like we should be able to follow suite in other states too.

And all signs seem positive that we can move beyond the twenty percent mark with no ill effects. “…a succession of rigorous studies — including a widely cited two-year study conducted by the DOE itself in 2012 — has found that renewables can provide as much as 80 percent of the nation’s energy supply without disrupting a properly managed grid. And that doesn’t mean that 80 percent is the upper limit of renewables — it indicates only that levels beyond 80 percent weren’t thoroughly investigated.” In fact, there are some aspects of solar and wind generated power that make things more stable. Once a solar or wind farm is built, operating costs are low and predictable, helping to even out electricity prices. They are also less vulnerable to major outages as they are more spread out and “modular,” meaning a natural disaster taking out some plants won’t stop overall production.

As we see more success stories, the reasons are piling up to transition to clean energy. Adding lower prices and more stable service to the benefits of renewable power makes it more broadly appealing; climate change isn’t the only motivator anymore.

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The Highest Impact Choices You Can Make for the Environment

Facing climate change can seem overwhelming, but the choices we each make have a huge impact. Supporting clean power over fossil fuels is not only great for the planet, it’s also great for your bottom line. Check out this graphic on the best actions you can take.

Personal Choices To Reduce Your Contribution To Climate Change

What can I do to make the biggest difference?

The study behind this graphic addresses how we perceive the environmental impact of our habits. Choices that get a lot of buzz as environmentally friendly are not necessarily as impactful as you’d hope. In their peer reviewed study “The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions,” Seth Wynes and Kimberly Nicholas analyze what widely applicable changes individuals can make to offset the most carbon.

They found that while things like recycling, changing light bulbs, or switching to hybrids get a lot of coverage, there are far more impactful things we can do. For example, they found that eating a plant based diet is four times more effective than comprehensive recycling, and eight times more effective than changing out a home’s light bulbs.

Their top four impactful decisions included having one less child, living car free, avoiding one transatlantic flight, and switching a household to clean energy. However, when compared to recommendations in textbooks and government papers, these changes were mentioned much less frequently than things like recycling, conserving water, and looking at home efficiency improvements.

The study stressed that getting the facts out to well-meaning consumers, especially in developed areas with high carbon footprints, is crucial to mitigating climate change. While some of the recommendations are difficult to fully implement, clean power is one choice that has become increasingly accessible.

Flying or driving might be unavoidable where you live or with the your job, and having children is a very personal decision. But supporting clean power is easy.  You’re already buying electricity.  Why not vote with your dollars to support clean, local energy? At Relay Power we’ve helped hundreds of Massachusetts residents save money and help the environment by educating them on the clean power offerings available to them and helping them choose the best fit.

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Build More to Drive Down the Price of Wind and Solar

Spring Canyon Wind Farm

Turbines at the Spring Canyon Wind Farm outside Peetz, Colo. The farm is owned by Invenergy, and produces energy under contract to Xcel Energy. Credit Ryan David Brown for The New York Times

According to a recent NY Times article, one electric utility is embracing wind and solar, not for environmental reasons, but because “In parts of the country, wind and solar plants built from scratch now offer the cheapest power available, even counting old coal, which was long seen as unbeatable…

How, exactly, did the cleanest energy technologies get on path to become the cheapest?  In a way, the story is as old as Henry Ford and his Model T, or in more recent times, the amazing progress of computer chips.  As they scale up, new technologies often follow a ‘learning curve’ that cuts the cost.  But it’s not automatic.  You have to build more and more units to drive the prices down.  That happened naturally with consumer products like Model Ts and cellphones, since everybody who saw the things wanted one.  But the electricity system was a hidebound, monopolistic industry that used to spend virtually nothing on innovation…

But most utilities are still only doing what governments have required of them.”  Luckily, we can still help promote building more and more clean power units and help drive the cost down further.

 

“Solar is not just expanding today because it’s green or clean — those are side benefits”

“Solar is not just expanding today because it’s green or clean — those are side benefits,” Lamon says. “Look at what it can help do to the overall U.S. economy. … We find people making $8, $9 an hour flipping burgers, and we bring them to a solar plant and pay them $18.”  This quote is from the Time magazine article, “A Coal Executive Switched to Building Solar Plants…

The article goes on to say, the aforementioned coal executive, Jim Lamon’s, company, “Depcom Power employs more than 1,600 people designing, building and operating solar farms with projects spread across the country from blue states like California to red states like Mississippi. Across the industry, more than 250,000 people in total work in solar in the U.S. typically in rural areas.”

DEPCOM construction crews assemble solar modules during the construction of the 55 megawatt Idaho Solar plant. Rusty Hill- SkyBlue Media

“…Lamon believed that low-cost solar would continue to serve as a more affordable energy source than coal and often natural gas no matter what came policy emerged from the White House. Indeed, that’s why he began building solar power plants in the first place. Without subsidies, electricity from large-scale solar power plants currently costs about a third the cost of coal and is about even with natural gas, according to data from the financial advisory firm Lazard. It’s even cheaper with subsidies.” the article continues.

August customer success stories

Larry is retired and likes that his new #rooftopsolar will help the local economy with local jobs but he loves the money he will be saving with Relay Power #solarisworking #cleanenergy #solarenergy

 

Steve is a musician that looked into #rooftopsolar but the trees around his home didn’t make it possible. With #communitysolar from Relay Power he is able to #gosolar and keep the trees. #solarisworking #solarenergy

 

Tamara and her family bought a #rooftopsolar system two years ago but didn’t have enough roof space to offset all their energy needs. Now with #communitysolar from Relay Power to go along with their existing solar her family is 100% #solarenergy and maxing their discount on electricity. #solarisworking

Massachusetts should raise its net energy metering caps

Massachusetts State HouseA recent article in pv magazine states that “Massachusetts is at a crossroads. To keep the state’s solar market moving, the Massachusetts State Legislature must raise the state’s net energy metering caps before the year is out. Despite progress being made to finalize the new incentive program by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), called Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART), the Legislature must act to keep support for solar projects intact.”

According to the article, “Massachusetts policies have helped create nearly 15,000 solar jobs in Massachusetts. That is an impressive number, but it’s also a mere fraction of what’s possible with a long-term, stable NEM policy in place. Furthermore, these policies have made the Bay State a national leader in solar. Massachusetts now ranks 7th in cumulative solar capacity installed, with enough solar energy to power 244,000 Massachusetts homes. All of that solar is lowering customer bills, reducing pollution and helping the Commonwealth meet its electricity needs.”

Massachusetts residents can contact their state reps and senators and tell them to support raising the net metering caps to keep Massachusetts economy moving forward in the right direction.  To find your elected representatives contact info, go to this link.