For over a hundred years, power plants have been built in a very specific way: large, centralized facilities usually located far from where actual energy consumption takes place. These plants typically have been owned by big corporations (mostly utility companies) on which consumers rely to get electricity. More important, these centralized plants have made the electric grid indispensable, as power needs to be transported and distributed to the load centers.
However, with rapid declines in the cost of solar energy and with new developments in battery energy storage, this is bound to change. At a time when 3-D printers allow us to manufacture at home, distributed generation through customer-owned rooftop solar systems makes perfect sense. Increased efficiencies and significant cost reductions over the last decade have convinced many to embrace the technology. But, as the critics point out, the intermittency of renewable energy and the fact that solar cannot power our homes at night still prove the need for a grid that can provide uninterrupted power.