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Will the utility grid eventually become extinct?

The short answer is yes – it will eventually die.

Already, solar energy and other distributed power generation technologies are helping to make the traditional “electricity network” less important.  When you can create your own energy on the spot, you don’t need to pay huge sums of money to SDG&E.

But we haven’t quite reached true independence yet.  The utility network still plays a vital role in today’s economy.  This is mainly due to the relative lack of affordable solar batteries.

Let’s explore.

Why Don’t We Have Affordable Solar Batteries Yet?

We already have the technology to capture and store solar electricity for nighttime use.  It’s here – and it works pretty well.

So what’s the problem?  Why doesn’t everyone simply store their green energy for later?


Today’s solar batteries are crazy expensive.  In fact, they can increase the total cost of your solar PV installation by 50% or more.  And thus, they haven’t caught on yet.  It’s simpler and cheaper to connect your panels to the grid and take advantage of San Diego’s net metering program instead.

But the landscape is changing.

Solar batteries are becoming cheaper by the minute.  There are countless companies and labs across the world working tirelessly to produce cost-effective renewable energy batteries for the masses.

Electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer, Tesla, is at the forefront of these developments.  The company is poised to launch a $5 billion gigafactory dedicated exclusively to green batteries.

According to the New York Times,

At full production, the factory… would produce enough lithium-ion batteries for about 500,000 cars annually by 2020, more than suppliers worldwide produced last year.

Although most of these batteries will eventually go towards EVs, this venture will produce ripple effects throughout the entire storage industry:

  • Technological improvements will trickle down to everyone
  • Economies of scale will make batteries cheaper across the board
  • Tesla’s success will invite more competition, and thus, even more cost reductions and design improvements

What the Tesla Venture Means for San Diego’s Solar Industry

Tesla’s Gigafactory is exciting news.  And just to reiterate, it is only one of countless companies and research firms working towards a commercially viable battery for the masses.

If any one of these ventures pays off, we’ll be able to unplug from the utility grid completely:

  • During the day, your solar panels will capture free sunshine and turn this energy into clean, usable electricity
  • Excess electricity will go into your batteries for night-time use (when the panels stop working)

Notice that SDG&E doesn’t figure into this equation at all.  No more utility bills and no more black outs.

In fact, the only reason to remain connected to the grid is for altruistic reasons.  Maybe your panels produce so much clean electricity that you can’t use or store it all.  You can then give away your electricity to neighbors (via the grid) and reduce their reliance on fossil fuel.

So how far away are we from this utopian grid-less future?  That’s the topic of tomorrow’s post.  Be sure to check in.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about going solar in San Diego, contact us for a free consultation.