Rooftop Solar Panels Decrease Power Line Costs

Like many places around the world, California has big goals in terms of renewable energy. The US state has set a target of obtaining 33% of the its electricity from renewables by 2020. 
 
While integrating large solar farms around the state and sourcing green energy from other states will help meet that goal, a major challenge is the huge investment needed in transmission infrastructure between now and 2020. A revamp of electricity transmission infrastructure is required regardless of California’s energy supply mix due to a rapidly increasing population and ageing existing electricity infrastructure requiring replacement. 
  
According to Smart Meters, a resource site dedicated to smart energy solutions, a company focused on the energy transmission grid has proposed the construction of a massive transmission project that will cost between USD$10 billion and $12 billion.  Nicknamed the "Green Power Express", the project will link wind farms in multiple states to load centres in the upper Midwest.
  
ITC Holdings says that the Green Power Express may result in a reduction of up to 34 million metric tons of carbon emissions, which is the equivalent of the annual emissions of about seven to nine 600 megawatt coal plants, or nine to 11 million automobiles.
  
The enemy of any transmission line technology is line loss. The further the distance from the point of generation to the point of consumption, the more electricity is lost; usually as heat. Transmission and distribution losses in the USA and UK are around 7%. When it comes to coal-fired power generation, that translates to millions of tonnes of coal having to be burned to make up for the loss; adding to existing carbon dioxide emissions woes.
 
Smart Meters points out that if rooftop solar panels in conjunction with grid connect systems were fully utilised throughout the sun-soaked state – and utilities integrated the generated power using smart grid technology – many of the new transmission lines won’t be necessary as the point of consumption will be much closer to the point of generation; in some cases as little as a few meters.