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What is Distributed Generation: Guide for Newbies

What is Distributed Generation Guide for Newbies

Welcome to our “What is Distributed Generation: Guide for Newbies.” If you are an avid homeowner of clean green energy and are looking for ways to save some of your hard-earned money. Distributed generation may be the way to go — after all, it is Elon Musk’s vision of turning every residential home into a distributed power plant to reduce reliance on the energy grid.

Every year, more and more homeowners are adopting clean green energy by installing solar roofs onto their houses and add energy storage that delivers power in times when the utilities go offline for some reason. An islander couple reportedly saved $300 off their monthly electrical bill by converting their home into a distributed power plant and sometimes get a refund for overproducing energy.

Distributed generation simply refers to a variety of technologies that are used to generate electricity through solar panels, heat, and power. Usually distributed generation serves a single structure such as a home or a small business. Sometimes a distributed generation can be a part of a microgrid that is tied onto the larger electricity delivery system such as college campuses and military bases.

When the distributed power plant is connected to the main energy grid, it lowers the electric utility’s voltage distribution lines and helps deliver clean, reliable power to customers. Furthermore, the distributed generation minimizes electricity losses along the transmission and distribution lines. That way the customers will always get a reliable source of power.

Some of the most common distributed generation systems that you will see in the residential sector can include:

  • Solar panels
  • Small wind turbines
  • Fuel cells
  • Emergency backup generators (gas-powered / fuel-powered)

Some of the most common distributed generation systems that you will see in the commercial sector can include:

  • Solar panels
  • Wind turbines
  • Fuel cells
  • Hydropower
  • Heat and power systems
  • Solid waste incineration
  • Combustion engines

How Distributed Generation Works

How Distributed Generation Works

For the distributed generation to work, a building must be able to produce energy. Homeowners who have a solar roof on their house can generate free energy to power their home. Any excess energy that they do not need gets sent through an electric utility transmission line to be distributed to the customers who need it, and the homeowners get a refund for overproducing energy.

Distributed generation in the United States has been increasing for a variety of reasons. This often includes renewable technologies such as solar panels that have become cost-effective as of recent for the homeowners and businesses.

In addition to that, the state and local governments have implemented policies that encourage renewable technologies due to their benefits, including energy security, reliability, and emission reductions. Compared to fossil fuels, oil, and gas, renewable energies create no emissions and reduce the greenhouse effect.

Distributed generation also serves as effective energy security due to its resiliency in events of rolling blackouts. When an energy grid operator can’t deliver electricity to a building for some reason, homes that run on renewable energy can continue to generate energy to support the homeowners. Thus keeping the homeowners safe from extreme weather as seen in Texas and California.

When the blackouts happen, the grid operators may have to rely on businesses and homes to assist with their on-site emergency generators to maintain reliable electric service for all customers. Through modernized electric delivery systems, the cost of the electric bill goes down and increases reliability through the use of distributed generation.

How Distributed Generation Impacts the Environment

Tesla Distributed Power Plant Concept

There are so many benefits to change from centralized generation to distributed generation as it reduces the amount that centralized power plants need to generate electricity. For instance, converting existing houses into distributed power plants will:

  • Harness energy that might be otherwise wasted such as combined heat and power system.
  • Use local energy sources that reduces and eliminates line loss during the transmission.
  • Generate cost-effective electricity at homes and business using renewable sources.

However, there are some negative environmental impacts associated with distributed generation. For instance, converting an existing home or business into a distributed power plant will require a footprint because they are located closer to the end-user. A distributed power plant might appear unpleasant to the eye and may cause some land-use concerns.

Furthermore, distributed power plants that use combustion like burning fossil fuels produce small impacts compared to centralized power plants. However, the impact of a distributed power plants that use non-renewable sources often has a much bigger impact since they tend to reside in a populated area.

Some of the distributed generation technologies are expensive and so complex that it is not feasible to serve the role of a distributed power plant. Waste incineration, biomass combustion, and combined heat and power systems all require water to generate steam and to cool down.

How Tesla Converts Homes Into Distributed Power Plants

Tesla Wants to Turn Every Home Into a Distributed Power Plant

Tesla, one of the leading electric automaker and renewable energy companies, is taking large strides in converting existing homes into distributed power plants. This is done by installing solar panels on the roof and connect to a Powerwall unit that stores excess energy.

Solar panel technology has been steadily becoming effective in converting solar energy into electricity over the past several years. Even when the weather is cloudy or snowing, the solar panels still can absorb the sunlight that penetrates through the ozone layer. This helps ensure that the homeowners have energy security regardless of the weather conditions and increases overall energy reliability.

Tesla recently announced that the homeowners who have existing Powerwall 2 units will see their overall power capacity increase up to 50% through a software update. In addition to that, the company started producing Powerwall 2 Plus in November 2020, which will have far more power capacity to support the homeowners and business for an extended time.

While the cost to install solar panels on the roof is dependent on the complexity, it has become affordable in recent years. Homeowners who have solar panels installed saved approximately $10,000 to $30,000 on a 20-years average compared to homeowners that run on gas, fuel, oil, and other non-renewable sources.

If you are looking for ways to cut down your expense on the electric bill, perhaps it is time to get solar panels installed on your roof. Currently, Tesla is offering a free Powerwall to go with the solar panel roof installation projects.

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