Seven months after workmen completed the installation of solar panels on the roof of the Garcia family house near Stanford University, the system has been reduced to the status of a roof decoration. The difficulty is that the equipment of the local utility is so overburdened that there is no place for the power generated by the solar panels to be channelled.
“We spent something like 30,000 dollars on a system that we aren’t going to utilise,” Theresa Garcia said. “It’s simply been a huge source of frustration.”
In an effort to wean the United States off of fossil fuels and mitigate the impacts of climate change, Vice President Biden is urging legislators and regulators to do so. However, ageing transformers and out-of-date electrical lines, which have made it difficult for homeowners, local governments, and businesses to use solar panels, batteries, electric cars, heat pumps, and other devices that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, could put his ambitious goals in jeopardy, according to experts.
A large amount of the equipment on the electric grid was installed decades ago and has to be replaced or repaired. It was created for a future in which power only flowed in one way – from the grid to the homes and businesses. Now, more and more houses and businesses are contributing electricity to the grid via the use of solar panels on their roofs.
These issues have become more pressing because the most expedient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to switch from electricity generated by fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas to electricity generated by renewable sources such as solar, wind, nuclear, and other zero-emission energy sources is to switch from oil and natural gas to electricity generated by renewable sources such as solar, wind, nuclear, and other zero-emission energy sources. However, according to energy experts, the grid is far from having the capacity to power all of the devices that may be used to mitigate the consequences of climate change.
Michael Johnston, executive director of codes and standards for the National Electrical Contractors Association, described the current situation as “a perfect violent storm in terms of satisfying the demand that we’re going to have.” “It’s a significant issue.”
The effects of climate change are also having an impact on electric networks. During a heat wave last year, the state of California implemented rolling blackouts. During a winter storm in February, the Texas power infrastructure failed, resulting in the deaths of more than 200 people. Then, in August, Hurricane Ida destroyed power lines throughout Louisiana, causing millions of people to be without electricity for many days.
A little more than a year ago, Ms. Garcia and her husband, Quin, purchased a property in Portola Valley for their family. They made the decision to invest in solar because Ms. Garcia, a 37-year-old biotech lawyer, and her husband, a venture entrepreneur, wanted to do their bit to combat global warming.
The Garcias are not pioneers in any sense of the word. According to the California Solar and Storage Association, solar energy is used by about one out of every ten utility consumers in the state.
Therefore, the Garcias were astonished when their utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., refused to let them utilise their solar panels in their entirety.
Because rooftop solar panels may generate far more power on bright days than is actually used in the communities where they are put, this presents a challenge. Electrical transformers, which assist control and guide the flow of energy within a neighbourhood, may get overloaded as a result, causing them to either shut down or blow up. Installing modern transformers with more capacity may help to prevent such issues in the first place.