California Solar Panels to Reduce High-Voltage Overhead wires

Could Californian solar panels cut overhead wire eyesores?

  Report predicts that the roll out of rooftop solar panels could cut the number of transmission lines needed to support new renewable energy developments

Cath Everett, BusinessGreen, 19 Aug 2009

Rooftop and onsite solar panel technology could help cut the financial and visual cost of introducing the expensive and unpopular transmission lines that will be required to help California hit its proposed renewable power goals by 2030.

That is the conclusion of a major new report from California's Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI), which has put a $15.7 billion price tag on introducing the new lines that will be needed to support the state's new renewable energy capacity. The study comes hot-on-the-heels of separate report released in June by the California Public Utilities Commission, which put the costs of new transmission lines at of around $12 billion.

The state already requires major utilities to generate 20 per cent of their power from renewable sources by next year, but lawmakers are considering whether to boost the figure to 30 per cent over the coming decades. Such a move would require the installation of a new set of transmission lines crossing from northern to southern California across the Central Valley and a second set running from east to west across mountain ranges and deserts.

In a nod to the political challenges likely to result from attempting to site any new lines, the report did not make specific location-based recommendations.

For example the Sunrise Powerlink, which is meant to hook San Diego up with planned solar-thermal installations in California's south eastern desert, is currently facing a battle to secure final planning approval in the face of local protests. The move was approved by regulators in December last year, but opponents are currently appealing the decision with the state's Supreme Court.

However, the RETI report also sounded a positive note for providers of small scale renewable energy systems, predicting that distributed generation, mainly in the form of rooftop solar panels, could help to lower the cost of introducing the controversial transmission lines if such technology could be found to comp ete financially with larger-scale wind, solar-thermal and geo-thermal plants.

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