NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- We usually think of solar or wind power as feeding into the electrical grid, comparing the costs, and considering subsidies aimed at equalizing them.But the biggest opportunities in the near term may lie off the grid, where there is no competition. In the past I thought of this in terms of small solar mats charging cellphones in Africa, as
Renewables can also fill the gap when the grid goes down. Companies that usually sell solar systems to small businesses and homes, like Consolidated Power of Albuquerque, N.M., jumped into the breach after Hurricane Sandy and brought solar generators to affected areas,
writes GreenTech Media. There are 10 Kw generators for powering phones and hand tools, and 20 Kw generators for powering cell towers. The story reminds me of what happened in communications after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. WiFi operators were able to get the data flowing much, much faster than the phone company was able to. The International Renewable Energy Agency, based in Abu Dhabi, has run the numbers and concluded renewables should be the default option for providing power beyond the reach of current electrical grids. Solar is more flexible, biomass is more available and wind is more stable than running new wires. Where there are no wires, or where the wires have gone down, the growth ceiling for renewable energy is now unlimited. When these re-sellers grow up they will make smart investments. At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Follow @DanaBlankenhorn This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.