City-Scale Solar Set to be Viable by 2018

Investment bank UBS has predicted that solar power could be powering entire cities by 2018 in it’s latest forecast for commercial renewable energy projects.  The Swiss-based financial powerhouse has predicted that more and more homes and businesses could be putting power back into the grid by the end of the decade, thanks to the rise of ‘rooftop solar’.

Whilst photovoltaic solar panels are a common piece of technology and well-established in the energy marketplace, UBS say that the increase in people retroactively fitting them to their property or place of work, combined with new buildings having them as standard, could mean large towns and cities will effectively run on solar at peak times.

Last week, the WA Independent market Operator forecast that 75% of detached and semi-detached dwellings, not to mention 90% of businesses could have rooftop solar by 2023/24.

This new generation of ‘prosumers’ could then go on to provide over half of the world’s energy by 2040, according to CSIRO, in its Future Grid report.

However, as positive as this all is for the renewables market, concerns are already growing about the energy economy’s ability to cope with such drastic changes in the make-up of the marketplace in such a small amount of time.

Queensland, Australia already gave a curious look at what could be the norm in some parts of the world as the wholesale price of electricity fell to effectively zero last week.

For several days, this famously sunny part of Australia was seeing it’s cost per megawatt hour – normally around $40-50 Australian – flit around the ‘$0’ mark, even at the middle of the day – peak time or energy usage.

With so many subsidies and taxes for commercial energy companies and producers to have to pay, the growing concern is that solar could drive the cost too low in some parts of the world.

However, as the cost of solar panels continues to fall, there may be little energy companies can do to stop people buying them for commercial properties and homes alike.

The looming fear for many is that if this lower cost of wholesale energy isn’t passed on to customers, we could see many choosing to go ‘off the grid’.

Preliminary studies suggest as much as 40% of customers could quit the grid by 2040 if energy companies don’t adapt to the ‘prosumers’ place in the energy market.