Drawbacks of a distributed generation electric grid

Gardiner, B. October 8, 2013. Bypassing the Power Grid. New York Times.

Small, decentralized generators are mostly inefficient, costing far more per unit of output than conventional power or even utility-scale renewable energy, like big solar farms.  Making haphazard changes to a system as complex as the electrical grid could have unintended consequences

Between 1 percent and 2 percent of American power is now generated by decentralized, renewable sources.

Renewable-energy technologies like solar and wind power have begun to shake up the mix of energy sources, and are now challenging the traditional distribution system. Advocates of a decentralized approach, known as distributed generation or distributed energy, envision a day when grids will no longer be one-way systems. Thousands of small generators, including rooftop solar panels and facilities that extract energy from garbage or sewage, could feed into the system, replacing or complementing big coal, nuclear or natural gas plants, they say.

Some energy experts say a less centralized system would be better suited to the diverse mix of energy sources that is likely to be needed to reduce climate-warming carbon emissions. It could also be less vulnerable to hits from stormy weather, demand overload and other difficulties that have sometimes knocked out traditional systems.

Without careful pricing and regulation, an overexpansion of distributed generation could drive up electricity prices and unfairly shift costs to customers who cannot afford to produce their own electricity.  Even homes with rooftop solar panels rely on the grid when the sun is not shining.

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