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Published on January 30th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Interview With NREL Director Dan Arvizu On Distributed Energy / Distributed Solar (Benefits & Obstacles)

January 30th, 2013 by  

I was very luck to have to chance to talk with NREL Director Dan Arvizu for about an hour at the recent International Renewable Energy Conference (part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week). Furthermore, I got most of what we discussed on video. Below is one of the videos from our conversations (all of which I’ll be posting here on CleanTechnica). This first one concerns the very interesting and important topic of distributed power generation, especially distributed solar. I’ve got more commentary and extra info following the video.

Incidentally, right at the end of my first conversation with Dan (which I was recording), my battery died. So, I lost the whole video. We agreed to meet up later to record it again if I could make it back before he left, but I was a bit late in returning and thought, very sadly, that I had missed the opportunity. So I started drafting a post on what he had said. After a couple moments, he showed up and we recorded the video above, but I think the notes from the original talk are still worth sharing, so I’m including them below.

Dan had a great keynote address at the beginning of the day in which he discussed much of the stuff we write about every day here on CleanTechnica. In the coming weeks, I’m going to pull out some of the key points and graphics, including some I don’t think I had seen before. At one point in his presentation, he was especially enthusiastic when discussing the potential for and value of distributed power (most notably, that would include distributed, rooftop solar PV).

One point he emphasized very strongly in a follow-up interview with me about this topic was that our current, baseload-based electricity system is extremely inefficient. It’s only about 44% efficient — astoundingly low. (In the second interview, above, he clarified what that meant: that our power generating assets are only used about 44% of the time.) If businesses in other sectors had such efficiency, they’d be out of business, Dan commented. We need to improve that, and there’s great potential for doing so by using a distributed generation system, and by having systems that are much more responsive and much more able to match supply with demand. (Of course, solar is a great option, because solar power generation often matches peak electricity demand.)

The challenge is that the whole sector has been based on this baseload power framework for decades, and it’s a huge challenge to make large change in such systems. The changes and the push for change have to come from many levels — from the regulatory institutions, utility company business models, and from the general populous. We have to create this transformation through efforts, education, and policies on many levels. In the first discussion about this topic, Dan emphasized the importance of creating citizen demand — a citizen movement — to create change in how our energy system is set up. Of course, CleanTechnica is quite engaged in doing this, as is the organization of one of our writers (John Farrell) — the Institue for Local Self-Reliance.

What can you do? Help spread the word by sharing posts like this one and by starting or getting involved in local renewable energy advocacy groups!

For more content from CleanTechnica’s trip to Abu Dhabi, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Future Energy Summit, and/or the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover any specific events or Masdar in any particular way. 

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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