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  • Nick Sylvestre

What do you do when the sun doesn’t shine?

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

Solar panels have one job-to collect sunlight and transform it into electricity. However, they can only make that energy when the sun is shining. That’s why the ability to store solar energy for later use is important to exponentially growing the solar industry. Storage helps to keep the balance between electricity generation and demand. Lithium-ion batteries are one way to store this energy. These are the same batteries that power your phone. Energy storage continues to play an integral role in the solar industry and energy market as a whole, as policymakers are making decisions that will dictate how storage can be used. Growing electricity demand and the need for grid diversification are also factors that place increasing interest in battery storage. 

As battery storage becomes more affordable, we have seen a positive shift in the solar industry. Electrochemical batteries have been around for more than 100 years and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have been in use for some time now. According to Solar Energy Industry Associations (SEIA), in 2004 PV systems installed without batteries outnumbered battery-based systems and by 2010, solar-plus-storage systems were relegated to a small niche of the booming solar industry. But now, the industry is coming full circle.While there is certainly plenty of room for growth of stand-alone solar in most states, the long-term success of the solar industry and its ability to scale depends on the integration of battery storage.

For distributed projects now and in the future, battery storage helps customers manage the move toward time-of-use (TOU) pricing and later TOU periods, and give system owners access to the power from their solar panels for more hours of the day. Today, many state and local governments incentivize energy storage on both sides of the meter with programs like California’s self generation incentive program (SGIP) and New York’s bulk storage incentives. 

Although the payback with batteries is better in quite a few markets now, the financial payback of PV systems that include battery storage may be harder to justify than the direct grid models. However, batteries provide additional resilience and control for the system owner which are also intangible priorities to consumers and businesses. All of the industry signs point to the fact that storage is going to be part of most solar PV systems going forward. When the biggest names in solar get behind batteries including Sunrun, SunPower, and Tesla, their marketing, messaging and political influence increase awareness among consumers, businesses, and governments. Smaller competitors are interested in getting involved by including battery storage in their solar solutions in fear they will get left behind.

Solar and storage have a natural “symbiotic relationship”. Ultimately, the wide-scale adoption of solar will lead to the wide-scale adoption of storage, which will in turn lead to more opportunities to deploy solar. To reach renewable energy goals, storage is playing an increasing role in providing power when the sun is not shining. Energy storage can smooth electricity prices through arbitrage, managing evening energy ramps, mitigating the risk of curtailment, providing backup power and more.

Learn More about how Louth Callan Renewables can help you decide if battery storage is right for your solar project: contact us at 860-814-4379.

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