What is Prosumer?

residential PV system

Most folks don’t care too much about energy generation. As long as the light comes on when a switch is flipped, most are happy without knowing what must happen to allow such convenience. As someone who is researching and considering PV technology this is most likely not how you operate, however let’s go over a very high level description of how your local power utility likely operates.

The centralized energy model has become the norm for energy generation and distribution to consumers. This has been reliable for over 150 years, but over the past 40 years energy producers and consumers have been working together to hybridize this legacy model. If you are considering getting a PV system installed you already know that you will no longer be just a consumer of energy. In fact you will be able to produce your own energy and, in most cases, sell any excess to the local energy utility. This probably won’t translate to a large profit margin, but you would become a Prosumer, an energy consumer who also produces. This is an important step towards transitioning away from a centralized energy model. The end goal of this transition is to create a larger share of Distributed Energy generation. Ultimately, the goal is a more efficient grid and a reduction in the need to use fossil fuels for energy generation.

A grid that operates with a larger share of distributed generation can have cascading efficiency increases during high production hours. For example, if a large share of folks in a neighborhood are producing their own energy with their respective PV systems they would not need to draw from centralized production. If these PV systems are producing a lot of energy on a cloudless sunny summer day, they may even be able to provide other nearby houses and small businesses with supplemental energy. All of this adds up to a lower amount of centralized generation and also less energy lost during transmission and distribution. Having a large share of distributed generation adds resiliency to an energy grid, but it still would not be able to completely replace the centralized model.

Distributed generation is an important part of reducing the need to burn fossil fuels for energy but it does have limitations. A PV system can only generate during daytime hours and will only produce optimally on long and cloudless days. Along with this most folks aren’t home during the daytime to benefit from their own energy production, although that may have changed drastically for some in recent times. In order to fully harvest the energy that distributed generation can provide, storage technologies need to be utilized and improved upon. Battery technology has improved drastically over the past ten years and is effective in the short term when paired with a residential PV system. Other technology, like the developing hydrogen storage, could satisfy long term energy storage needs but is currently better aligned with the utility scale. Perhaps there is a future where this technology can be used in concordance with residential PV systems. The way policy changes will determine how these limitations will be offset in a world where there is a large share of distributed energy production.

Energy is a complex topic that has become increasingly contentious and will continue to be as the world moves further into the 21st century. In tandem with this, distributed energy is a sector that will become more important at a local, national, and international level. There will also continue to be innovations in technology related to distributed generation and storage. We are here to partner with you and help you adapt to the changing landscape of energy. Sunlight Solar Energy has always been an innovator and will continue to empower its customers as energy prosumers.

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