Outdated power grid creates an economic gap in solar energy

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If the UN Country will always be Make a dent Global warming in its production carbon Emissions, It will have to speed up the use of solar energy, most of which can be generated from the roofs of homes and businesses. Solar energy currently only provides 3% of the US energy supply, but states such as the White House and California are working to increase this ratio to more than 40% in the next few decades.

To achieve this goal, households and business owners need more financial incentives to install photovoltaic panels, and large-scale solar farms also require land and transmission lines to transport electricity from rural areas to cities.Last week, California regulators required builders to install solar panels and battery storage New commercial and high-rise residential building.but A new study It is found that some low-income and minority communities may be left behind, mainly because utilities have not upgraded the power grid equally in all places.

The author said that even if rooftop solar panels are free for everyone, homeowners in these areas cannot use the power of solar panels to run appliances or charge electric cars without purchasing special batteries. That’s because the grids in these areas cannot accept the extra current generated by solar panels.

“Even if solar energy is free, there is not enough capacity for everyone to own solar energy,” said Anna Brockway, the lead author of the study published this week in the journal. Natural energy And a graduate student in the Energy and Resources Group of the University of California, Berkeley. “We found that these restrictions are more pronounced in black-identified and disadvantaged communities. These communities have even less power grid capacity per household and cannot accommodate the solar energy that people might want.”

Brockway and her colleagues studied two utilities in California, Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison, which produced Most solar domestic. PG&E’s service area Extends south from Mount Shasta to Santa Barbara, and SCE service area Covers Los Angeles County, Orange County and San Bernardino County, as well as the border area with Nevada. They chose these two utility districts because they are the areas with the highest solar energy usage in the state. Both serve high-income and low-income areas identified by census data, and together provide electricity to 30 million people.

The researchers compared the utility’s own “carrying capacity” map (that is, how much electricity each community’s grid can handle) with block-level ethnic demographic and economic census data. Then they estimate how much circuit capacity is needed to accommodate rooftop solar and distribute it to the community.

For decades, the power grid has been dedicated to delivering electricity in one direction—from power plants, through transmission lines, to homes or businesses. But the homeowner has started generating electricity and sending electricity in another way. In wealthier areas and whiter communities where solar panels have become common in the past few decades, utility companies have upgraded equipment to make it easier to flow in both directions. Brockway said: “Early adopters disproportionately fit certain demographic characteristics of white people and incomes higher than the average taxpayer.”

This is not the case in minority communities, where rooftop solar energy is not common. Take the transformer that connects the power line to each home or business as an example. The older ones are not designed to carry the extra electricity generated by the roof panels in the opposite direction. Any additional current will be converted into heat, thereby damaging or destroying the transformer. “Anytime you transfer electricity from one place to another, whether it’s solar or charging through the grid, more current will flow through the line,” Brockway said. She continued that these lines “can only handle a certain amount of current.”

Mohit Chhabra, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that such congestion may also make it more difficult to charge electric vehicles at home, which will make it more difficult for the United States to switch from gas-powered to cleaner electric vehicles. “The fact that the grid is not ready to reach the level of electrification we want is not a good thing,” Chhabra said. “We don’t want black people and low-income communities to be unable to charge their vehicles at or near their homes.”

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