There is no doubt that there will be a solar power impact on traditional power systems. The question that everyone is trying to figure out is how much and on what aspect of the system will be impacted. Power generation today can be broken into several parts and solar power will impact these parts much differently depending on what kind of solar power is generated and where it is. The areas of power generation can be broken down in to the following categories: Fuel; Generation; Transmission; and Delivery. We will take a look at each one of these separately assuming two scenarios. The first is where solar power is generated in a large complex like the one shown in the picture and the second where solar power is being generated on your roof top.
Solar Power Impact on Traditional Power Systems
Fuel – today for electrical power generation depends on sources such as coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and hydro. Both large solar projects and roof top solar will have an impact on these sources since solar is really a new source of fuel. Hydro generation from dams will be the least impacted since they are built and power is virtually free with no impact on the environment. Mining and transportation will also be impacted as more and more pressure is also applied from the environmental side.
Generation – will focus on the lowest costs and the least environmental impact. This means wind power and solar projects combined with existing hydro power dams. Generation from steam generated by burning coal, oil and natural gas will tail off in that order as more and more solar comes online regardless of whether it is large scale projects or roof top designs.
Transmission – systems will still be required unless roof top solar and local wind farms really take off. Transmission costs is a significant part of the overall cost to the consumer which will still motivate and drive consumers to roof top installations. Large solar projects and wind farm projects will still require long distance transmission systems.
Delivery – Local delivery of power will be impacted to a small extent depending on the penetration of roof top solar panels. If roof top solar were to proliferate in a big way, local utilities could find that their revenue could drop significantly, however this is still at least a decade away in North America.
As costs increase for electrical energy and are passed onto the consumer, more and more roof top solutions will be implemented. Locations with already high per kilowatt per hour costs will see an impact within the next few years.