Imagine selling excess electricity generated from the roof of your business to a local company that aggregates power generated from rooftops all across the city. In turn this company provides power to a regional utility district, which is also connected to a national grid.
Depending upon your type of business, the energy efficiency of the building and the size and capacity of your solar array, sales of electricity could reduce or eliminate the cost of electricity or potentially produce positive revenue.
This scenario could become commonplace in the not too distant future.
(To see a visualization of the shift to renewables throughout the nation go to the NREL website)
Power generated from renewable energy such as water, wind, solar and geothermal could provide up to 80% of the nations electricity by 2050 without the need for any technological breakthroughs according to the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) "Energy Futures Study" report released in mid June 2012.
There are obstacles to overcome such as the management of low demand periods and what to do with excess power.
There are three separate power grids in the United States. One serves the west coast and rocky mountain states, one serves the state of Texas and the third serves the rest of the mid to east coast states. (Hawaii gets their electricity from burning oil and Alaska gets most of its power from hydroelectric dams.)
If the three major power grids were to connect it would increase flexibility. In the spring water flows are high in the Pacific Northwest allowing hydroelectric dams to produce more electricity than in summer dry months. At the same time of year wind farms are also at peak production. A unified grid would allow western states to sell excess electricity to the east coast instead of curtailing production.
In this scenario power production is decentralized, and the unified grid provides stability.
A decentralized power grid would provide additional business opportunities and challenges. How the money flows in a decentralized system is just as important as how the electricity flows. Would we see today's utilities shift away from being a power provider to being an aggregator of power? Would some utilities go out of business or expand?
In any scenario, business owners who have had the foresight to make their operations as efficient as possible will be the best positioned to avoid risk and capitalize on opportunities to generate income from electricity production.