Different Ways To Use Solar Power
As the world embraces more solar power, it turns out there are two competing visions – the traditional utility model of building solar farms for transmission to customers, and the distributed model where businesses and homes generate their own power using rooftop solar panels. One solution is likely to win, and today two highflying companies offer a sharply different way forward.
Nextera Energy (NEE), through its subsidiary Florida Power and Light (FPL), has 28 major solar plants generating almost 2 Gigawatts (GWs) of power, and plans to add 30 million solar panels (another 9 GW) over the next decade. 1 GW is conventionally believed capable of powering around 725,000 homes assuming constant load without peaks. Solar power is intermittent, but NEE is investing in battery storage too for when it’s not sunny in the sunshine state (such as at night and during hurricane season).
The FPL Manatee Energy Storage Center will have 409 megawatts of capacity (the equivalent of approximately 100 million iPhone batteries) when it begins operation late next year. NEE describes themselves as, “one of the world’s largest generators of clean, renewable wind energy, with the largest market share of North American wind capacity.” Solar was mentioned 27 times on NEE’s recent earnings call.
Tesla (TSLA) has a different vision that might well compete with NEE’s. TSLA’s $275BN market cap suggests that their electric vehicles will wipe out the traditional automakers. However, venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya believes that the bull story is built on TSLA’s energy business, which he notes is already profitable. TSLA offers residential customers solar panels with which to generate electricity, a battery (Powerwall) to store it, and software to manage the process. Palihapitiya believes part of TSLA’s upside lies in its ability to make every sunny home energy-independent.
It’s a compelling argument. While NEE is a leader in generating power from renewables, TSLA may lead to creative destruction of the wholesale-retail utility model that has existed almost as long as the commercial use of electricity. Solar is more likely than wind to adopt such a model – rooftop windmills seem implausible – and the sunny weather that solar farms rely on is also available to their residential customers. Utilities, with their high fixed costs and regulated pricing, are vulnerable to an erosion of their customer base, similar to the cord-cutting that has hurt cable TV providers.
My partner Henry Hoffman, author of this insightful NEE/TSLA comparison, recently invested in a home generator. Although Tropical Storm Isiasis makes this purchase look timely, his motivation was New York’s poorly conceived obsession with renewables. He chose the 22kW Generac natural gas generator.
Henry expects rolling brownouts will become more common as the NY metropolitan area struggles to meet power demand, a problem exacerbated by the pending shutdown of the 1GW Indian Point unit 3 nuclear facility next year.
The solar devotee still needs TSLA’s Powerwall, which costs $7,167 per powerwall plus installation, to save that sunlight for the evening. Six powerwalls, costing $43K, would provide one day’s backup for a typical suburban home, on top of $22K for solar panels to charge the batteries. The solar purist would be carbon-free for $65K, plus the cost of installation.
Many homes in our neighborhood recently lost power, and the hum of generators seems more widespread than in the past. Solar panels, plus a natural gas generator, offer the pragmatist green credentials, no intermittency, and more reliability than today’s fragile distribution infrastructure with its aboveground power lines strung from utility poles. A generator costs less than a fleet of powerwalls too.
The way in which we’ll use the sun to generate power is not yet settled, and natural gas will continue to be the most important source. Enterprise Products Partners (EPD) delivers natural gas liquids (such as ethane) as a vital feedstock to the petrochemical industry. Regardless of the path energy markets take, plastics demand will keep rising, for which EPD is well positioned.
We are invested in EPD and all the components of the American Energy Independence Index via the ETF that seeks to track its performance.
The information provided is for informational purposes only and investors should determine for themselves whether a particular service, security or product is suitable for their investment needs. The information contained herein is not complete, may not be current, is subject to change, and is subject to, and qualified in its entirety by, the more complete disclosures, risk factors and other terms that are contained in the disclosure, prospectus, and offering. Certain information herein has been obtained from third party sources and, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified and its accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed. No representation is made with respect to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of this information. Nothing provided on this site constitutes tax advice. Individuals should seek the advice of their own tax advisor for specific information regarding tax consequences of investments. Investments in securities entail risk and are not suitable for all investors. This site is not a recommendation nor an offer to sell (or solicitation of an offer to buy) securities in the United States or in any other jurisdiction.
References to indexes and benchmarks are hypothetical illustrations of aggregate returns and do not reflect the performance of any actual investment. Investors cannot invest in an index and do not reflect the deduction of the advisor’s fees or other trading expenses. There can be no assurance that current investments will be profitable. Actual realized returns will depend on, among other factors, the value of assets and market conditions at the time of disposition, any related transaction costs, and the timing of the purchase. Indexes and benchmarks may not directly correlate or only partially relate to portfolios managed by SL Advisors as they have different underlying investments and may use different strategies or have different objectives than portfolios managed by SL Advisors (e.g. The Alerian index is a group MLP securities in the oil and gas industries. Portfolios may not include the same investments that are included in the Alerian Index. The S & P Index does not directly relate to investment strategies managed by SL Advisers.)
This site may contain forward-looking statements relating to the objectives, opportunities, and the future performance of the U.S. market generally. Forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of such words as; “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “should,” “planned,” “estimated,” “potential” and other similar terms. Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, estimates with respect to financial condition, results of operations, and success or lack of success of any particular investment strategy. All are subject to various factors, including, but not limited to general and local economic conditions, changing levels of competition within certain industries and markets, changes in interest rates, changes in legislation or regulation, and other economic, competitive, governmental, regulatory and technological factors affecting a portfolio’s operations that could cause actual results to differ materially from projected results. Such statements are forward-looking in nature and involves a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, and accordingly, actual results may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Prospective investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements or examples. None of SL Advisors LLC or any of its affiliates or principals nor any other individual or entity assumes any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, subsequent events or any other circumstances. All statements made herein speak only as of the date that they were made. r
Certain hyperlinks or referenced websites on the Site, if any, are for your convenience and forward you to third parties’ websites, which generally are recognized by their top level domain name. Any descriptions of, references to, or links to other products, publications or services does not constitute an endorsement, authorization, sponsorship by or affiliation with SL Advisors LLC with respect to any linked site or its sponsor, unless expressly stated by SL Advisors LLC. Any such information, products or sites have not necessarily been reviewed by SL Advisors LLC and are provided or maintained by third parties over whom SL Advisors LLC exercise no control. SL Advisors LLC expressly disclaim any responsibility for the content, the accuracy of the information, and/or quality of products or services provided by or advertised on these third-party sites.
All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment will be suitable or profitable for a client’s investment portfolio.
Past performance of the American Energy Independence Index is not indicative of future returns.
I needed a new roof and was ready to go the solar tile root, however , when I tried to connect the message from Tesla and Solar City was that the technology was not yet available in Fort Myers in SW Florida.
A traditional roof with a inground generator fueled by propane seemed the best solution at present.