Tag: solar storage

Power Failures, Dynamic Pricing and The Future of Small Contracting

Article RoundupIndustry Issues

Opinion: More solar panels and battery storage at homes could prevent power failures

By Barry Cinnamon for The Mercury News

Cinnamon makes the link between power outage prevention and solar/battery backup clear. He states that while this tech provides electricity for households it also functions as a buffer for transformers by directing excess solar or battery power back to the local grids, rather than straight to nearby transformers (which can overload and fail). He points out that heavier demands for energy due to higher temperatures and more EVs are increasing power outages in CA and that modernizing local grids would address the problem.

Cinnamon states that encouraging homeowners and businesses to install BTM solar and storage systems would avoid the need for expensive grid upgrades that would otherwise fall on utility ratepayers. He highlights two important policies that would help lower the barrier to solar adoption: no limits on customer ability to install solar tech and the reduction of up-front costs of battery storage systems.

Key quote: “Power was out in my neighborhood for about 12 hours while PG&E deployed a crew to diagnose the problem and replace the transformer. But the blackout would not have happened if just one more home in the neighborhood had a solar or battery storage system.”

Beyond TOU: Is more dynamic pricing the future of rate design?

By Herman K. Trabish for Utility DIVE

In this article Trabish assesses the merits of dynamic pricing, often in comparison with time-of-use rates, by citing consulting groups and various consumer advocates. His research highlights the limitations of TOU rates with regards to reducing peak demands. He states that these rates offer too small a daily price differential.

Trabish points to the merits of dynamic pricing, “alerting customers to steeper increases in per-kWh rates in advance of specific peak demand events,” which results in increased reductions when highest demand days occur. This system guides customer usage more effectively because it closely aligns actual pricing and costs with price signals. Not only does this aid consumers, it also helps utilities more easily assimilate renewable energy and lower their generation and distribution costs.

Trabish’s research does demonstrate, however, that advocates are mixed on the suitability of dynamic pricing. He points out that while consumers show a willingness to adjust to different rate structures, issues like off-peak price to peak price ratio and rates set up to be revenue neutral present problems. He Keep reading

Solar+Storage, Troubling Petition and Weak Q1

Article RoundupIndustry Issues

Article roundup for June/July 2017…

Is California’s Weak Q1 a Sign of Residential Solar’s Future?

By Austin Perea for GTM

Perea offers a summary and analysis of the most recent U.S. Solar Market Insight report. He states, “national residential PV installations fell both year-over-year (17 percent) and quarter-over-quarter (11 percent) for the first time since GTM Research began tracking the market on a quarterly basis in 2010.” California’s troubles seem to be one of the biggest reasons for this downturn, troubles caused by a combination of weather and policy related issues as well as market saturation, customer fatigue and low cost customer acquisition challenges. Perea predicts a slow rebound, both in California and nationally, but points to the fact that, given the relative size of the size of the CA market, the state will have a significant impact on how things look nationally.

Elevate the Constraint: Advance your strategic projects by setting priorities correctly across your organization.

By Boaz Soifer for Baywa r.e.

Soifer asserts that companies get stuck in the same pattern when looking to update their strategic plan: they get the teams together, do SWOT analysis, a value stream map, customer journey analysis, strategic objectives definition and multi-year roadmapping. And then nothing really changes. He says things don’t change because each team or department is working independently to advance its strategic priority for the company, resulting in a failure to elevate the strategic priority of the key team, the one experiencing the company’s main constraint. He says a company needs to identify this main constraint (major area where things are not working and having the most negative impact), define what the constrained team needs to achieve its objectives, and have all other teams prioritize this team’s strategic objectives over all others. For example, if the team with the most important constraint is Project Management then “team leaders need to…look at the cross-team processes that can be created or improved to increase Project Management success.” Keep reading

Is Battery Storage a Good Bet for Solar Contractors?

Industry Issues

The current US market in residential battery storage is small but growing steadily. While there are a number of companies offering batteries (some looking to move into the US market from overseas), economic factors and some limitations with the current tech may prohibit fast growth in the near future.

The relationship between energy storage providers and residential solar install companies in the US has some good possibilities for both markets, though it would behoove installers to proceed with caution given some of the complexities and possible pitfalls of moving into batteries.

Below I’ve highlighted some key points from a compilation of articles (with links) about battery storage and solar.

Homeowner Interest

  • In 2016 Enphase surveyed almost 600 US homeowners (who had solar or were thinking about solar) to identify the relationship between the solar and backup generator markets. The survey showed that only 2% of those surveyed felt that battery backups met their needs. The majority (whether green minded or not) wanted multiple days of backup power, and they want it for less than $10,000, something that only generators can provide. Some quotes: “reliability and cost are more important than any other factors” and “when it comes to backup power, practicality trumps image, even amongst green-minded customers.”
  • Sonnen just began production of sonnenBatterie products for the US market and its VP of Sales for North America stated: “The U.S. market represents significant opportunity for sonnen as we look to expand and encourage energy independence globally…We’re seeing a rapidly growing number of homeowners interested in achieving energy independence, and a large portion of those are seeking smart storage and software capabilities for better efficiency and management of their renewable energy output.”
  • This article sums up the main factors driving the growth of homeowner interest in energy storage. It discusses net metering 2.0, devaluation of exported solar pv, net zero export limitations, time of use rate structures, buy all sell all programs, residential demand charges, and net metering credit expiration.
  • A report on an Australian homeowner who was the first Tesla Powerwall user in the country stated: “Six months on, he has cut his daily power bill by nearly 90 per cent and said his family had become “smarter” with their use of appliances…But Mr Martin cautioned battery units, which are charged using renewable sources such as solar and wind, were still a costly option. ‘The thing that is common to these battery banks is they still don’t make sense from a pure financial perspective,’ he said. ‘Pretty much none of them will pay for themselves before the warranty expires.'”

Size of the US Market

  • GTM’s Shayle Kann testified on the state of energy storage at the CA Energy Storage Summit 2016:
    • Volumes are small: “Residential deployments in the U.S. are measured in the hundreds, not thousands — because there is ‘just not an economic case for residential energy storage yet.’”
    • ISO level or state policy support is needed: “There are a bunch of different ways that states are starting to provide mechanisms for behind-the-meter energy storage to have a real value proposition. The first are net energy metering and rate reform.”
    • The FREC proposal provides needed rules and regulations: “there are lots of wholesale markets where energy storage doesn’t play a big role not just because of economics but because of the lack of clarity of rules and regulations. The system wasn’t designed with energy storage in mind and therefore it’s tough to get these projects built and financed.”
    • Proceed with caution: “I think energy storage is in an interesting place,” but “it’s got all the makings of a bubble,” noting the “attention, excitement and investment being paid to a market where not that much is getting deployed yet — and that should give everyone pause.”

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