Thursday, March 3, 2016

Power to the People

The way we generate and distribute electricity is changing. Now we have the opportunity to choose where we get our power from: to be our own mini power station, or to be tied to the utility company’s grid.

Graham Morse

PV solar panels allow consumers to generate their own electricity. And here in Cayman we can generate plenty. The trouble is it hasn’t been economic to store it for use during the night. So most of the homes and businesses in Cayman which generate their own power use CUC’s CORE (Customer Own Renewable Energy) program: they sell their power to CUC, and buy the electricity they use like everyone else.

But recent development in the production of lithium-ion batteries is a game-changer. Compared with lead-acid batteries, which have been around for a hundred years, lithium-ion batteries are smaller, lighter, produce constant power and have a greatly extended life. But because there was limited demand, they were very expensive. Now, fueled by growing demand from electric vehicles, battery manufacturers have gone into mass production, bringing down the cost. Tesla led the way. Last year they announced the launch of ‘Powerwall,’ a home power storage battery system that will fit on your kitchen wall.

And the cost of battery storage has plummeted. Five years ago it was over $1000 per KW, today it is $250 per KW and it is forecast to drop by 75% over the next year five years. This means that it is now financially viable to install a battery system that will store the power made in the day for use at night. Homes and businesses have a choice: burning fossil fuel and rising process with CUC, or going ‘off-grid’ – described in the industry as ‘grid defection.’ More Cayman Renewable Energy Association CREA