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Over the last few months, we have written about the growth prospects and necessity of rooftop solar especially here in California and the West. Many pundits predict that the number of new solar homes will be approximately 30 million, with most of them in California. The truth may be that the number might be larger and that it will be a national expansion of solar homes, not just regional. One of the surprising developments emerging from the last administration is that automotive companies , from around the world, are making the commitment to convert to EV over the next 5-6 years. Volvo, Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, and Toyota are joining domestic producers, Ford, GM, and Chrysler-Renault to make this dramatic change. America is a commuter society, which means we drive to our places of employment. The assumption is that a solar home can charge the electric vehicle each night and have it ready for the next day’s commute.
Beginning now and over the next few years, the American public will finally begin to lose its collective fear of the limited range of EV batteries. Today, it takes several hours (or more) to recharge a depleted battery when compared to putting more gas in the tank, a legitimate hurdle for some. However, the continuing improvements in battery technology and the fact that overnight will then “refill the tank”, in most commute situations is beginning to change this perception. This transition will not be easy, since our gas station habits have to change and gas stations have too as well. Gas stations, clearly, will be necessary for the transition and beyond. They will likely become hybrid gas and charging stations. However, there is little question that we will have, at least, some need for gas stations for many years to come.
The key to the transition to EV will be the addition of charging stations in the garage and the conversion to rooftop solar with battery back-up. Here in California, we have encountered a strong adversary to rooftop solar, that being the major utilities. They have launched a new initiative to dramatically reduce the reimbursement amount they are required to pay solar rooftop owners for electricity they contribute to the grid. Yes, you heard that correctly. The major utilities are seeking regulatory relief from the required purchase of excess electricity generated by rooftop solar. There is a strong case for rooftop solar to remain part of a mini grid in their region, but the long-term need to be part of the major utility grid is rapidly evaporating. Right now, not all rooftop installations have battery back-up, thus requiring a grid connection to provide power at night and during storms or other restrictions on available sunlight. The politics in this regulatory arena can be brutal and the major utilities have the lobbying power to stifle solar rooftop growth and preserve their dominant role in power distribution.
The key to rooftop solar growth, with batteries, is the popular acceptance of the need to replace power plants, both fossil fuels based and nuclear, with green renewables. There is room in the growth of the Smart Home for solar technology, in fact, it may be almost a necessity. It may take a leap of faith to imagine your local alarm dealer actually installing a solar system, but many of us are up to the challenge of partnering with a local roofing contractor and electrician. The alarm dealer customer base is already pre-disposed to a solar rooftop installation after they have installed a Smart Home system. Solar requires monitoring and no one is, presumably, more aware of the importance of managing Smart Home monitoring than the alarm dealer. There may also be an opportunity for Smart Home alarm dealers to do a better job of communicating with their customer about their Smart Home usage if they are also monitoring their solar activity.
This growth opportunity is not for everyone, but the concept of partnerships and teaming -up in some fashion will give us the confidence and relationships to retain our Smart Home management role. Said another way, If you do not develop some solar expertise and relationships, you may be jeopardizing your existing alarm base.