There’s a lot of buzz in solar circles right now about batteries and other energy storage systems. Now that solar has a solid foothold and businesses are realizing tangible savings, many business owners are looking for the next big breakthrough to extract even more savings from their solar investment.
Energy storage is the missing link that brings the promise of solar full circle. By capturing the excess power your panels generate during the day, an energy storage system can provide emergency backup power, replace net metering, reduce demand charges, or -- depending on size -- allow your business to unplug from the grid entirely.
There’s more development money flowing into energy storage technology than ever before, and there are compelling products available right now that can augment the capabilities of a commercial solar energy system in very compelling ways. More importantly, we are closer than ever to the off-grid “holy grail”, but like most new technologies, it’s important to separate marketing hype from reality.
While the topic of energy storage is much more complex than we can possibly explore in the context of a single blog post, here are a few things we think you should know about what you can expect to achieve with a reasonable investment in today’s best technologies.
Energy storage is affordable security in times of crisis
As our national energy grid continues to age and deal with ever-increasing demand & threats, more frequent and unpredictable power outages are a certainty. Businesses that already have solar installed are in a good position to weather the storm. Adding a small energy storage system take this to the next level by bringing security to a full 24-hour day. For much less money than a full off-grid system, an emergency backup system will power your most critical loads at night while the grid is down.
Energy storage can squash utility demand fees
Arizona utilities are moving swiftly toward demand-based rate plans that add new fees for the highest single hour (APS) or half hour (SRP) of energy drawn from the grid during the billing cycle. Energy Storage can help mitigate these fees—allowing your business to flatten demand peaks by using stored solar energy rather than grid energy. Peak demand management systems are available today in numerous sizes and price points.
Hedge against dwindling net metering programs
Many utilities are in the process of changing their net metering policies to reduce the amount they credit you for excess power. Many are even considering eliminating net metering credits all together. Adding energy storage allows you to avoid this inevitable switch by storing your excess energy rather than sending it back to the grid in exchange for dwindling net metering returns.
Going off-grid is doable but still not for everyone
Different types of businesses have vastly different electrical requirements. A manufacturing facility, for example, will use way more electricity than an office complex or church. Providing enough storage capacity to take the office complex off-grid is significantly easier and cheaper than supplying 100% of a factory’s electrical needs. Full off-grid systems typically include energy storage, environmental systems to keep the batteries cool, and generators for additional backup on days with minimal sunlight. When some businesses calculate the ROI of building a full off-grid system vs. purchasing the power from the utility at night, the numbers can still be strongly in favor of utility power, even though the business is still at the mercy of utility-imposed fees, rate hikes and possible lack of reliability.
Trusted technologies lead the way, but R&D investment is flowing
Many of the energy storage systems you can buy today rely on the same types of batteries that power your phone or laptop. Lead acid and lithium-ion being the most common. This technology has been around for years and offer proven safety and predictable performance. Plus, manufacturing economies of scale keep prices low. With that said, energy storage is among the leading investment opportunities in the renewable energy revolution. Between 2007 and 2014, there was an estimated $17.4 billion in private R&D investment for battery development. New innovations in energy storage technologies are being thoroughly tested as we speak.* Advancements are coming and the fully off-grid prize is only a matter of time.
Are you interested in learning more about adding solar to your business or an energy storage solution for an existing solar array? We invite you to contact our award-winning commercial division directly for a free evaluation.