Solar Energy Storage: Page 12 of 14
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Off-grid system designers have significant experience working with low- and medium-capacity...
Before the advent of modern maximum power point tracking (MPPT) photovoltaic controllers,...
We introduce electricians and integrators who are new to batterybased grid-tied PV installations to...
What markets and applications currently provide an optimal value proposition for PV systems with integrated storage? How will this evolve over time?
Current technology and project economics for solar-plus-storage technology are well suited for mid-market commercial customers and those with relatively low kWh usage or high demand charges. Another subset of customers has a desire to utilize renewable energy, but is not able to site large enough PV arrays at their locations. We are able to increase our value proposition by including additional savings and customer benefits that could not be achieved with a traditional grid-direct net-metered system. A good example are the projects we are designing in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, which allow us to incorporate larger dc systems and generation potential, but still maintain the ability to comply with strict interconnection requirements. Our ability to quickly and cost-effectively install systems on these island grids will be the first step in the continued evolution and availability of microgrid solutions that are powered by clean energy.
What policy shifts or utility cost-structure changes will significantly impact the projected growth of storage systems in the US?
The fastest growth in storage systems will come from behind-the-meter commercial applications. The growth in storage will continue as long as the current trend in utility-rate tariff regulation is maintained. Solar does an excellent job of eliminating energy charges but needs storage technology to guarantee demand-charge reduction. Policies and rate changes that have occurred over the last several years have shifted much of a commercial customer’s utility cost onto demand- and capacity-related charges, and now we have a technology solution to address that. Industrial- and residential-rate tariffs can follow this trend, and a good example is the debate surrounding net energy metering policies. If the savings value of a net energy metering credit is compromised, the value of a storage-coupled system will be even more compelling.
Our industry needs to ensure that we have continued access to the grid and that solar customers are not penalized for the advantages they provide to our utility system. As technology is implemented to provide real-time capacity benefits, we need a policy and regulatory framework to ensure these benefits are fairly valued. The ability to participate in a capacity market or a fast-response frequency regulation program are good examples of policies that the solar industry needs to support.
How can financing mechanisms accelerate the deployment of solar storage systems?
Financing for solar-plus-storage systems is available and will be a major portion of the market. The long-term benefits of storage technology can outweigh the capital investment. It is simply a matter of having the right partners who understand the best application and use of the technology. Fortunately, we are working with several experienced parties to address this evolution within the solar industry. Guaranteed demand reduction is a compelling offer for our customers, and now we can attack most parts of an electric bill and offer significant savings with a simple financing program.
Guaranteeing demand-charge reduction will allow companies to make inroads with customers. This concept is similar to a production guarantee, which is now an industry standard. Solar companies must adapt to meet the needs of their customers, most of whom are primarily looking to save money on their utility bill without the up-front cost of ownership. Solar-plus-storage technologies will enable solar companies to offer demand charge reduction guarantees while maintaining the bankability required by the investment community.
What are the major obstacles to the expansion of the sales and deployment of solar storage systems in the US?
The biggest obstacle to greater storage deployment is the lack of companies that have a fully integrated technology solution that is cost effective and ready for financing. Most customers are not willing to host design experiments, and our industry needs to sell the tangible benefits of this technology. We have been successful with the REC Solar Storage Partnership Program, educating our solar customers on the benefits of solar plus storage, and working with companies to handle different aspects of the project, from a design, construction, finance or management perspective. This value-added services package is one way to address early stage deployment barriers. Our solar customers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in understanding the savings potential of additional technology solutions, and our industry needs the ability to offer a bankable solution from a familiar brand and a well-known provider.