Solar + storage
Solar and battery storage: a match made in heaven
When paired together, solar panels and battery storage are an ideal combination. Battery storage allows you to store electricity and discharges it for later use on-demand. Combined with solar, batteries can charge during the day when the sun is shining and power any on-site electric needs when the sun sets and/or when the grid goes down. Most rooftop solar systems are grid-tied, meaning that when the power goes down your solar system automatically shuts off. Pairing solar with batteries can allow a building to retain power when the grid goes down by continuously charging the batteries with solar electricity.
(Prefer to watch a video? Check out our battery storage educational webinar.)
Solar + battery storage uses
Solar systems with battery backup can provide individuals and communities with much needed resiliency in the face of natural disasters. These systems can protect vulnerable communities from the disaster’s most immediate and devastating effects by providing power when the electric grid goes down. Over an extended period, solar-powered systems replenish batteries, even if roads are cut off, or access to fuel for traditional home generators is unavailable or hard to get.
Solar + storage can provide homeowners with high-quality “backup power” in the event of a utility outage. This comes at a cost. Adding battery storage to a solar array can increase costs so much that the savings seen on utility bills are negligible. Homeowners in areas with poor power reliability may still choose to invest in storage to keep critical loads, such as refrigerators, working when utility power goes out. In other areas where utility tariffs boost the price of electricity higher outside of solar’s normal hours of production, storage can significantly improve solar’s economics by storing the array’s energy and shifting the use of that energy in the home to later or earlier in the day to avoid using the more expensive non-solar energy.
Solar + storage can make financial sense for institutions. This is especially true for commercial entities facing high demand charges in their regular electric bill. Storage combined with specialized energy software can reduce an institution’s demand for utility power at key times, reducing all of their energy costs. Despite this, interest on the private sector side for solar storage remains low due to a lack of knowledge about storage, the complexity of such projects, and a lack of incentive for businesses to invest in resiliency in any form. On the public side, municipalities can encourage solar + storage as part of their resiliency goal. However, solar + storage is not frequently included in the local resiliency planning.
Creating value and resiliency for communities
Storage technology is changing fast. It offers not only resilience benefits but financial ones as well. Organizations and businesses can use solar + storage to reduce their costs and protect citizens from natural disasters.
The main barrier to growing solar + storage isn’t due to technical limitations or a lack of public support; it’s cost. While new storage technologies are being rapidly developed and the cost of both small and large-scale systems is dropping, energy storage still only makes sense in certain markets.
While costs are major obstacles, energy storage policies and regulations can contribute significantly to widespread deployment and economic feasibility. Solar + storage assets tend to be deployed in locations where local regulations enable energy storage to make sense – either where additional incentives for stored energy are offered or other traditional generators are too costly.
It is becoming increasingly feasible to add back-up storage solutions to our most important institutions, including hospitals, fire departments, police stations, and shelters that provide critical emergency services. Cities like San Francisco are already incorporating solar + storage into emergency response plans to improve resilience. New York is promoting micro-grids that often feature solar + storage as central components in their resiliency planning.
Understanding the intricacies of solar+storage for residential applications
Energy storage can provide benefits to consumers at many different scales, depending on where batteries are placed and who has access to their stored energy. One of the applications of battery storage that stands to most directly benefit real people is residential installation, where batteries are installed in peoples’ homes. Just a few short years ago, the economics of residential storage did not quite work in homeowners’ favor. Upfront battery storage costs were very high, and only a few manufacturers offered products available for home installation. However, battery costs have fallen tremendously in the past decade, and for the first time in history, more storage capacity is being installed at homes than in larger commercial and industrial settings.
As costs fall, as new products enter the market, and as homeowners become more savvy about the value they can get from pairing their solar arrays with battery storage, Solar United Neighbors expects to see more and more of our members installing storage at their homes. To answer homeowner questions (without vendor or sales bias), we have developed a first-of-its kind Battery Storage Guide for Homeowners. The guide answers questions on battery technology, battery economics, installation procedures, and the retrofitting of existing solar arrays with battery storage. Download your free copy today!
- We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for homeowners who are interested in battery storage. Click here to download it.
- We’ve held online webinars like this storage webinar we did for our Florida program in 2019 and this one we did in partnership with Generation 180. Our most recent webinar was recorded in June of 2020.
- We’ve conducted an in-depth analysis of the current “state of the art” of solar + storage. We wanted to determine whether solar + storage is a viable way to protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change. The research used the Hampton Roads, Virginia region as a test case. We modeled the financial feasibility of these projects and identified ways to scale up their deployment. Download the full report on solar + storage for resiliency.
- Our Maryland Storage Co-op Pilot back in 2017 was our first co-op to be focused on adding battery storage to existing solar systems.
Solar + storage resources
- Consumer-friendly battery storage educational webinar
- Solar Plus Storage: A Resiliency and Climate Mitigation Strategy for Vulnerable Communities – This Solar United Neighbors report analyzes whether solar + storage is a viable way to protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change.
- Greentech Media: IRS Letter on Home Batteries Could ‘Open Floodgates for Residential Storage Retrofits’ – This report details a recent IRS letter clarifying how the federal tax credit for solar can be applied to existing solar arrays that are later retrofitted with battery storage systems.
- Understanding Solar+Storage: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions about Solar PV & Battery Storage: A great guide by Clean Energy Group for folks considering solar & storage; it answers questions from: what types of batteries are available? to how can I pay for a solar+storage system?
- Solar Plus: A holistic approach to distributed solar PV – The National Renewable Energy Laboratory offers an overview of distributed solar + storage resources.
- The economics of grid defection – Rocky Mountain Institute reports on solar + storage grid defection.
- Solar-plus-storage could be perfect fit for low-income communities – Florida Municipal Electric Association identified solar + storage technologies as an ideal solution to provide resilience during extended outages, such as the aftermath of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.
- Reverse Power Flow: How Solar+Batteries Shift Electric Grid Decision Making from Utilities to Consumers – An Institute for Self Reliance report with recommendations for changing utility oversight and modifying electricity markets to transition from the dying utility distribution monopoly to a vibrant, democratic energy system where customers have the opportunity to choose distributed energy options that benefit themselves and the greater grid.
We’ve compiled additional information about solar + storage in some states. Are you looking for information that isn’t covered here? Contact us.