Cord-cutting 2.0: Lose the power lines, embrace solar


Solar panels are installed on a roof in California.  (Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg)

While cord cutting — giving up cable television for online alternatives — is increasingly popular, this might be the next step. Quartz has a good read on the prospects of solar panels and batteries replacing traditional electric utilities:

Six years ago [Marco] Krapels put a 2.4-kilowatt solar panel array on the roof of his Marin County, California home. Last April, SolarCity installed a 10-kilowatt Tesla battery in his garage to store electricity generated by the panels. “I should technically be able to function with solar and just the battery indefinitely as long as the sun shines,” Krapels, a renewable energy financer, told me as he stood by his Tesla Model S electric sports sedan. “I don’t want to have to buy power from PG&E at peak rates, I want to use my own power. You see this power line going from the street to my house? I look forward to the day when I cut that wire.”

A huge trend we’re seeing is the death of cords and wires. Remember desktop computers and the tangle of cords behind them? Now we have wireless tablets, and the popularity of PCs is fading. Phones once required copper wires, and then cellphones arrived. Video-game controllers, once tethered by cords, are now wireless. Cable companies have huge swaths of wires spanning the country to deliver television. But cord cutting is emerging, and cable companies are in trouble.

A report written for U.S. electric companies was honest about the threat to their business:

One can imagine a day when battery storage technology or micro turbines could allow customers to be electric grid independent. To put this into perspective, who would have believed 10 years ago that traditional wire line telephone customers could economically “cut the cord?”

If the trend holds true, most of the cords and wires you see around you will disappear. Electric utilities may be a likely victim.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland | December 2, 2013