How to crowdfund unsubsidized solar

This solar power plant is an important milestone in Spain!

Since April this year, the new 2 MW crowdfunded solar park in Spain from Som Energía has been producing power. It is unique because it has no subsidies and because the energy is sold to the retail cooperative, so the price is supplied at cost* to the investors.

Image Share by Som Energía from Alcolea plan

Image Shared by Som Energía from Alcolea plan

I’m proud of having participated in this project. It’s sustainable, doesn’t need subsidies and also a good investment. The funding will be returned with no interest, but the benefit is through the reduced energy costs in the retail monthly invoice.

Living in a flat with little space for solar panels, I find it very difficult and inefficient to install one or a couple of self-consumption solar panels. So this is a natural option, to team-up with other people to own together renewable power generation. And it avoids facing the so-called tax on the sun (discussed some time ago here).

Of course there are other investment options like Yieldcos (I have shares from Saeta Yield myself). Or simply buying 100% renewable electricity from the retailer. But helping build this small project with a cooperative feels closer to owning the plant. And power generation not only owned by big corporations is also positive, as has been the case in Germany. We can say it’s a good example of the sharing economy, too…

What other options do you see to participate as an individual in the energy transition?

*Actual calculation is 36 €/MWh, which means 6 €/MWh below the market before taxes and network charges.

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Solar Panel 3D printing

Solar panel manufacturing has benefited from economies of scale in the race to lower the costs, following an impressive learning curve (see BNEF curve). But will the future bring the cheapest solar panels, being printed where needed from a simple and cheap device?

This is already happening in manufacturing, as described brilliantly by Chris Anderson in Makers. With technology already available for printing solar cells on paper, innovation improving efficiency and durability, is set to revolutionize solar panel manufacturing. Centralized production would be complemented by local micro-manufacturing.

Printer

Solar photovoltaics is today the best example/solution for democratization of power generation, as it allows simple and scalable self-consumption. Democratizing also the manufacturing of the panel would take it a step further, boosting solar generation capacity well above the actual double digit yearly growth.

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Democratization of power generation – The ongoing innovation

There is quite some discussion on the subject of energy independence and energy democracy recently (for example, this article, or the lateral power concept from Rifkin’s TIR or the initiative from Energy Democracy TV). I’d like to post my “vote” for energy democracy and explain why it is an inevitable transition and an ongoing innovation, from dependent to empowered (literally) prosumers.

Increased energy independence of a country normally refers to a reduction of oil imports, mainly benefitial to trade balance, but it is not so straight-forward how an individual benefits of this country’s independence. If, for example, the change reduces his gas or electricity bill, he will be, but if the energy he purchases is still from the same utility at the same price, is he any more independent?

Another way of understanding energy independence concept is the “off-grid-ing”, islanding both from the network and utilities, through renewables plus storage and/or electric vehicle, for example. I’m relatively against this as it is opposed to the networked economy, where interdependence and cooperation benefits all stakeholders. It also is economically inefficient as there has to be additional generation&storage dimensioned for off-grid availability. The same self-sufficient user interconnected, even in peer-to-peer networks or communities, needs less investment, can have additional income from selling power, and has more security of supply from other generators.

This brings us back to the point of energy democracy, on who generates power and who has access to it? There lies the innovation on energy democratization. On the following video from innovation and market we can have a look at innovation process:

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