Since the Dean machine and solar systems can share the same electronics it makes the cost of rooftop solar much more economic. So for the disconnected-from-the-grid home of the future, power first comes from solar on the roof because that’s the lowest marginal cost. The Dean machine also has a battery so you decide how much or little natural gas you want to use. When there’s not enough solar, you turn on the Beacon 10. Then ideally, the grid itself would just be the ultimate backup. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.
Will the Beacon 10 be sold or leased to customers?
They will probably more leased to customers. They way we are envisioning this is that if we had 10,000 of these machines just in the greater New York City area and we as a company had control of the machines, that becomes a 100-megawatt peak power plant as well.
We see the machine as more as the centerpiece of a series of products and services that we would sell to you as a homeowner and then we would basically manage your own energy supply at your home. And then if you had extra, we would sell it back to into the grid and share any benefit of that with you.
That won’t make the utilities happy.
No, they will be totally unhappy.
We’ve also developed a solar canopy that can be used as a gazebo or could be put over a patio or used as a carport. It’s a self-standing structure that you can put in and orient to the sun. It will be an opportunity multiplier in terms of the number of residences that can’t do solar now because maybe they’ve got a 15-year-old roof or a roof that orients to the north or they have trees around the house. It’s designed for homes or small businesses. It’ll be in the market in 2014.
NRG has a lot of big power plants as well. How will distributed generation impact your business?
We’re sort of where long-distance, fixed line telephony was in 1985. Right now it’s about the time where you can say it’s the end of the long-distance fixed-line world. Let’s just call it game over, cell phones won. But it took 25 years.
If we assume the pace of change accelerates, I definitely think there’s going to be a significant decline in the significance of big power plants. But they’re still going to be around as the backbone of the grid for another 20 years.
I think what’s more interesting long term is that ultimately does the grid just become a backup system the way the post office is effectively a backup system for Federal Express and UPS for high-value mail? Or do we actually get to the point where we are tearing down the grid because it’s actually not being used at all?
When you look five years ahead, what does the energy landscape look like?
I think five years ahead you see an energy landscape seriously in transition. While everyone in the power industry is realizing there is a threat here, there is a very wide discrepancy as to whether it’s real threat or a fad. I think five years from now everyone gets it and the industry is completely shaking itself up. It’s like when they finally got it in telephony and the cell phone was it. So I think it’s going to be a free-for-all.