Renewable energies are an integral part of efficient and resilient housing
Falling prices, 50% or more, over a 7 year period is good for any industry and the same goes for the housing related technology and the solar energy industry. A recent report from the Department of Energy shows 5 energy producing or saving technologies have had major price reductions over the past 7 years: Wind, Solar-distributive, Solar-industrial, batteries, & LED’s. Prices have dropped such that you can now buy a 50 watt alternative LED light bulb (4 watts actual consumption) for 99 CENTS at IKEA. Here in lies the problem we are facing today, will America embrace energy saving and producing technologies and will American utilities be willing to embrace consumer empowered distributed living? Falling prices across the board are about to create major disruptions and certain industries are resisting because industries never disrupt themselves.
On a national scale renewable energies are expanding to levels never thought possible. The following reflects the amount of energy a state produces from renewables: Iowa (48%), Vermont (44%), Kansas (39%), Oklahoma (39%), California (36%). Oklahoma and California are both major oil producing states, yet are leaders in renewables. Interesting is the fact that Texas is the fastest growing in 2016 yet produces 17% by way of renewables – mostly likely due to large offsets from their oil and gas production. On the other hand Florida, produces less than 2% of its energy by way of renewables and solar while adequate sun and having the LOWEST “distributed” installed solar price in the NATION ($2.50 per watt compared to $3.20 per watt). Why is Florida so far behind in solar and renewables while being the cheapest in the nation installed? Could it be lack of effort on building design and major utilities restraining the market while consumers are not motivated because of cheap energy in many areas of the state?
Florida is unique in the fact that there is ONE major energy company, FPL, with very low prices for electricity while there are 20+ municipality controlled power companies with prices averaging 30% higher than FPL. The time is now for efficient and resilient design to lead the movement to renewables over the next 7 years. Technology grows at a rate many times faster than the construction industry because of the lead time involved in planning and building a home, a building, a factory or a development. Build it for renewables today and the technology will be there to make it financially feasible when you are done or soon there after. We must take this into consideration in the design process. Yes, we must design an extremely energy efficient home (beyond that of code) even if solar panels are not installed right away. What must change is the relationship between the consumer, utilities and government agencies. We must protect the consumer from the power companies and their ability to restrict the efficient use of renewable energies. We must change the playing field and welcome the impending disruption. To maximize demand, consumers need the ability to produce energy for one’s own consumption, store excess production on or off site for future demand, and allow off site produced energy to be stored on site for future use onsite or offsite. The consumer must have the ability to reverse produced or stored energy to the power grid. It is only then when we have a BALANCED and fair two way strategy will renewable energies take off in the state of Florida and our nation as a whole.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Going forward we can not build a sustainable future built on an old non-sustainable model. Centralized power generation and distribution is a 20th century model that will not work in the 21st century. What is needed in a decentralized strategy is a hybrid system that allows the consumer to produce as much energy as possible, allows the consumer to store as much energy as possible, and allows the power company to buy energy back from the consumer based on demand both from current production and stored energy on a distributed grid. If the power company can remotely turn off my pool pump or air conditioning during peak times, they certainly can draw or store energy from a distributed network of battery storage banks in homes, commercial buildings and localized storage centers on demand for energy needs in that immediate area. Think of it as peer to peer network for energy. Think of Napster or Uber for energy. Power companies better move quickly to develop the network to control and monetize such an efficient system before a new model makes them irrelevant. By creating a distributed energy network, instead of a centralized system of production with no storage, the grid will be more efficient because of reduced line loss (energy produced and stored closer to the actual point of consumption) and more resilient because of the thousands and thousands of battery banks being used to store energy to meet demand. Security from extreme weather, terrorist attacks and the efficiency gained by building homes that are ZERO net energy is the future and we must engage in a cohesive strategy that is focused on decentralized / distributed energy production over current system of centralization.