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Energy Matters (As originally published in The Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today Newspaper, April 2014)

By Mark Becker
| May 12, 2014

Read Original Newspaper Article PDF here

As geopolitical events unfold around the world, it has become apparent that the ability to export energy continues to be one of the most powerful tools of foreign policy. For too long the United States has been subjected to the blackmail of Middle Eastern despots and South American dictators because we’ve relied on their oil reserves to fuel our economy. Currently Russia is threatening export reductions of natural gas to our western allies in Europe and expanding the export of gas to the People’s Republic of China. The United States is considering the option of exporting our natural gas reserves to Europe to reduce the geopolitical power of Russia in Europe.

The point is that nations without energy resources of their own are subject to the whims of energy exporting nations. The “Energy Cold War” has now begun where allies and adversaries are made based on who has the ability to export energy and who has the need to import it.

The good news is that the USA is becoming a more energy independent and secure nation due to the high deployment of renewable energy and our extensive natural gas resources. Soon we may be a large exporter of energy. At the very least we’re importing less energy every day.

Individual consumers are becoming more energy independent as well. There are currently over 204,000 solar electric systems in operation in California, each providing excellent and safe financial returns to their owners.

Recently installed at my home is a new generation inverter that will allow my solar panels to provide power to my home when the utility grid is down, without the need for batteries. My refrigerator and internet will remain powered during utility power outages due to this new technology inverter. Installed by our licensed electrician, are customers are finding this option very appealing. Also appealing is the new kilowatt production records my solar PV system has set as compared to my previous inverter. The tangible result is less money I have to give to PG&E and more money I can add to my children’s college fund.

Some solar companies are better positioned than others to compete in the future solar marketplace by designing products that work in conjunction with upcoming smart grid legislation. One particular company’s products allow limited back-up power (as described) as an inexpensive option. These products also have electric characteristics that help utilities manage grid voltages and stability, such as reactive power capabilities. Battery back-up systems will become VERY prevalent in the future as battery technology improves. The intermittent nature of solar electric distribution during daylight hours will be erased when excess energy is inexpensively stored and distributed for nighttime use. The utility grid as we know it will ultimately become decentralized away from large power stations. My home and other solar power installations will be a power generating station for neighbors by day and night. At the rate of adoption of renewable energy, it will be sooner than later that this will become commonplace.

Company which don’t offer product flexibility to adapt to the future utility grid will soon be disadvantaged in the marketplace. Properly managed and designed, more solar energy penetration into the grid will mean a more reliable and efficient utility.

The case for back-up power and energy independence at home – Last year, in a not well-publicized attack on the PG&E Metcalf transmission substation in San Jose,snipers (yes, snipers) knocked out 17 transformers. Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “The most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred in the U.S.” Repairs took 27 days. There is no doubt that a large-scale attack on our grid would be devastating to our economy and way of life. It doesn’t take a survival preparedness (“prepper”) mentality to recognize the convenience and advantage of having electricity of your own when the utility can’t provide it, whatever the reason may be.

On a lighter note, Facebook is in discussions to buy a solar drone company. The drone can fly for five years on the solar power at 60,000+feet. It will transmit broadband connectivity to the 2/3rds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it.

Drop us an email if you’d like to know about back-up power and the security it can bring to your home.

By Mark Becker, GoSimpleSolar

Mark Becker is the President of GoSimpleSolar, by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, a Danville based Solar Installation Firm (License 948715). GoSimpleSolar can be reached at 925-331-8011. Visit GoSimpleSolar’s NEW and larger showroom at 100 Railroad Avenue, Suite B, Danville (behind Pete’s Brass Rail) and receive a $500 discount on your solar system. Go to for a free quote, or email