An Old Grid Forms A Solar Power Economic Divide

If the United State always on make a tooth to make it warm the planet carbon emissions, need to borrow solar energy use, most of which can come from the rooftops of homes and businesses. Solar only provides 3 percent of the U.S. energy supply today, but the White House and states like California are pushing to increase that by more than 40 percent in the coming decades.

To get there, home and business owners will need more financial incentives to install photovoltaic panels, while large solar farms will also need land and transmission lines to send electricity from the villages. in cities. Last week, California state officials required builders to install solar panels and store batteries. new commercial and high-rise residence buildings. but a new study found some neighborhoods to be low-income and minorities may be left behind, especially since facilities have not been upgraded the same as the power line anywhere.

Even if rooftop solar panels are free to all, the authors say, homeowners in areas cannot use power from solar panels to run household appliances or charge a electric car without purchasing a special battery. That’s because the power grid in those areas can’t receive the extra electricity generated by solar panels.

“There’s not enough capacity for everyone to have solar power, even if solar is free,” said Anna Brockway, lead author of the study published this week in the journal. Energy in Nature and a graduate student in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley. We know that the limitations are especially severe in communities that are known to be Black and hopeless. Communities with even a small amount of grid capacity per household to be able to receive solar can be accessed by people. ”

Brockway and his colleagues studied Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison, two California facilities, the state that makes most power of the sun in the country. PG&E’s service area from Mount Shasta south to Santa Barbara, while SCE service territory covers Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Bernardino County, as well as the Nevada border region. They chose these two districts to be available because they have the highest solar power utilization in the state. Both serve high -income and low -income areas, as determined by census tract data, and simultaneously empower 30 million people.

The researchers compared the utility’s own maps with “hosting capacity,” which is how much power can be controlled by electricity in each neighborhood, to census data on racial and economic level demographics. on the block. They estimate how much circuit capacity is needed to reach solar on the roof and distribute it to neighborhoods.

For decades, the power grid was built to transmit electricity in one direction-from a power plant, through transmission lines, to a home or business. But homeowners have already started generating electricity and are sending it the other way. In the most affluent areas and white communities, where solar panels have become commonplace over the past few decades, equipment is being used to upgrade equipment so that the dual channel now flows. “Primary adopters are not equally suited to specific white demographic characteristics and have higher incomes than the average ratepayer,” Brockway said.

But that’s not the case in minority neighborhoods, where rooftop solar isn’t as common. For example, take the transformers that connect to the power lines in every home or business. The oldest ones are not built to carry additional power generated from rooftop panels in the opposite direction. Any excess current flow will be converted to heat, which will damage or destroy the transformers. “Any time you transfer electricity from one place to another, whether solar power or through the grid to charge anything, there’s an additional amount of electricity flowing through the lines,” Brockway said. Those lines, he continues, “can only afford one amount now.”

Its tightness could also tighten the charging of home electric vehicles, according to Mohit Chhabra, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and make it more difficult for the U.S. to move from gas-powered to in cleaner EVs. “The fact that the grid isn’t ready to get to the level of electrification we want is a bad thing,” Chhabra said. “We don’t want a situation where black and low -income neighborhoods can’t load their car at home or near their home.”

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