How much do you spend on electricity each month? The amount is largely determined by which state you live in. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), monthly electric bills are highest across the Sun Belt, especially in Alabama, Arizona, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas. In each of these jurisdictions, the typical bill is $125 or more.
Consumption is not perfectly correlated with cost, though. Southern states including Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee consume the most kilowatts per month and have relatively high bills for residents; however, Hawaii requires less monthly electricity than any other state, yet has some of the nation's most expensive utilities. In addition to geography, regulations and available power sources also make major differences in what consumers pay.
The spread of residential solar panel deployments could have major implications for how utility companies operate and what their customers pay. Let's look at how installing solar near your residence could potentially help you reduce your electric bill.
From $250 to $0 a month: The difference residential solar panels can make
Speaking to the PBS NewsHour in late 2017, a Vermont woman discussed how she had gone from paying up to $250 a month for electricity to spending nothing, thanks to a solar implementation. The two key difference-makers have been:
- Battery storage: She leases batteries from the local power company for a low monthly fee, gaining the freedom to operate off the main grid when necessary.
- Net metering: Since the residential solar panels generate more power than needed during summer months, she has the option to resell the electricity during peak hours.
These benefits have been enabled by Vermont utilities eager to remake the Green Mountain State's electrical infrastructure. Its traditional grid delivers power – generated by the burning of coal and natural gas as well as by the use of hydropower and nuclear – from massive stations to residences and offices over distances of many miles. This setup is environmentally unfriendly not to mention inefficient, achieving only 40 to 43 percent economic efficiency, according to Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell, who also spoke to PBS.
Solar power has the potential to support numerous microgrids that are both more energy-efficient and resilient in the face of disturbances affecting the main grid. DOE's guide to microgrids has cited benefits such as their abilities to run indefinitely by harnessing renewable resources, including solar panels. A reliable microgrid also boosts the energy independence of the community it serves.
Is solar a good fit for your home in 2018?
Rural, sparsely populated states like Vermont undoubtedly have some unique advantages in transitioning to these solar-powered microgrids, such as relatively small customer bases. Reinventing the grid wholesale has fewer consequences in a state with only 600,000 residents.
However, larger states are also exploring solar-driven changes to their grids. In Florida, the Florida Power and Light utility has been working on utility-scale arrays as a part of a plan to install 2.5 million panels capable of powering 60,000 homes. The state has had net metering laws in place since 2008. More recently, its voters rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have limited rooftop solar expansion by making it less economically appealing to enter into net metering arrangements.
The falling price of solar has been a key driver in the expansion of renewable capacity from Vermont to Florida. Additional initiatives such as commercial property assessed clean energy (aka CPACE) could further enable the development of microgrids as complements and alternatives to traditional grids. As you consider your options for residential solar in 2018 and beyond, be sure to consult the many products and services available from Trina Solar, an experienced expert panel provider and a pioneer in the field.
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