Monday, March 9, 2015

Solar flexing some power

Solar panels are now integrated with roof shingles and tiles
There is a great article in the Washington Post about how utilities are fighting the growing trend of rooftop solar power.

It is rare to see an article like this in a mainstream newspaper these days, particularly in the Washington Post. Ever since Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in a fire-sale in 2013, the Post has steered hard to the right and coddles corporations over the common man or woman.

Bezos, though, is a fan of disruptive technologies and rooftop solar power is the most disruptive yet.

Anyway, aside from the obvious benefit to homeowners and the environment, solar power threatens the heavily tax-subsidized electric utility monopolies.

What the article points out is that the electric utility industry has been waging a war against rooftop solar power for 30 years.

Yet today, the article notes, there are twice as many residential solar workers as there are coal miners.

Since, it appears to be losing in its efforts to impede solar power's progress, even in "red" states, the traditional electric monopolies are now getting public utility commissions to do their bidding by imposing excessive solar surcharges on homes that use solar panels.

Some power companies are installing massive solar fields in the desert, but home rooftop solar appears to be the most promising way to go.

The power companies are falling into the same trap that the music industry did when Napster and then iTunes took over the marketplace.

Like the music conglomerates, the power companies will lose big if they continue to fight progress rather than work with it.

When storage of electricity becomes practical and affordable, the power companies will be in a world of hurt.

In Nevada, Elon Musk is developing a high-capacity battery for his Tesla vehicles, but a side benefit could well be a storage battery for solar power generated from rooftop solar panels.

That could eventually let homeowners unplug from the grid completely.

Yes, that seems far-fetched, but as pointed out in the WaPo article, who knew 10 years ago that homeowners would disconnect their phone land lines in favor of cell phones and their inferior call quality.

Once homes, particularly in sunny Central Oregon, become solarized, electric vehicles, with longer-range batteries become much more appealing.

Less fossil fuels consumed benefits the environment and denies funding to terrorists.

But, the power monopolies, backed by the fossil fuel industry, must be thwarted in their efforts to stifle innovation.

We hear the blather all the time about how a "free market" balances everything out for everyone's benefit.

But, the term "free market" is just a theory in economic textbooks with little basis in reality in the era of huge monopolies.

That's what we're seeing the electric and fossil fuel industry industries. With their huge cash reserves, they can buy any influence at any level of government to maintain their dominance.

They failed to stop the low-carbon fuels bill from passing in the Oregon Legislature recently even though they helped get rid of Gov. John Kitzhaber and his muse, Cylvia Hayes, who were at the heart of the matter. 

Here's hoping the new governor signs the bill. We need a government that protects the average citizen against the progress-crushing influence of monopolies.

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