June 2009


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EMAIL INTERVIEW - Lon Huber & Ken Sinclair

Lon HuberLon Huber is currently an energy policy associate for the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy (AzRISE), a multidisciplinary organization engaged in cutting edge technical research as well as economic and policy analysis.

Prior to working with AzRISE Lon served as a Congressional Fellow for US Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Washington DC. Lon holds a bachelors degree in public policy and management from the University of Arizona where he presently serves on several sustainability committees.


www.YoungEnergy.org Network - Distributed PV generation and the smart grid

Photovoltaics (PV) needs the help of smart grid technologies to reach the market penetration levels required to be a major transformative player in moving the US into a clean, electricity-based economy.

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Sinclair:  What is your role as a young person in this smart grid\renewable energy (RE) scene?

Huber:  My main passion is solar energy. I think it is by far the most dynamic and promising form of RE and I believe that it can be a core solution in solving not only several of our environmental challenges but also some of the security and economic hurdles we face. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about solar energy and policy barriers preventing solar from being a larger part of our energy mix. Therefore, I see my role as being an educator about the opportunities solar can offer and a resource on what we need to do to realize a future full of free energy from the sun.

Sinclair:  How does solar energy and smart grid go together?

Huber:  PV needs the help of smart grid technologies to reach the market penetration levels required to be a major transformative player in moving the US into a clean, electricity-based economy. The smart grid needs renewable distributed energy sources to maximize its value and realize its full potential. I think we can all agree that a smart grid transporting electricity from a centralized coal plant is like a racecar driver behind the wheel of a Model-T. In order to see what the driver can really do you will need 21st century technology.

Sinclair:  What else can the smart grid offer PV?

Huber:  A smart grid can help with smooth out the intermittency associated with PV through frequency regulation, power fluctuations, and voltage regulation. It can also improve communication and control between the panel’s inverter and the utility distribution system. Most importantly, a smart grid can direct when and where the panel’s electricity is used - meaning it can calculate whether or not to store the energy, send the energy to the grid, or run household appliances.

Sinclair:  Do these benefits influence the economics of distributed generation?

Huber:  Certainly, the benefit-to-cost ratio is very favorable. A smart grid and distributed generation (DG) combo can lead to significant savings for the consumer and bring the cost down on the generation side. The combo can also reduce congestion on transmission lines and lower O&M expenses for T&D and generation for the utility. However, the real economic benefits will not be seen until we have energy storage.

Sinclair:  How does energy storage fit into the picture?

Huber:  Adding storage to a smart gird\DG setup magnifies the benefits of the two technologies. It would provide firming capacity and grid optimization. It would also lower the cost of the DG by storing energy during low demand times and selling it during peak demand times. Storage would reduce the need for backup generation and improve the reliability of the grid as a whole.

Sinclair:  What needs to be done from a policy standpoint to clear the way for DG and smart grid technologies?

Huber:  We need more technical and interconnection standardization, smart TOU rates, and incentives for integrated systems that employ smart meters, DG and energy storage systems. If we eliminate the policy obstacles and refine the technology, those three components could make every home a net energy producer and with the advent of plug-in hybrids render the phrases “power outage”, “high gas prices” and “utility rate hike” a thing of the past.


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