As natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires continue to cut power to businesses and residential homes alike, savvy consumers are looking for ways to maintain a steady supply of electricity during outages, as well as during peak usage times when energy costs can skyrocket. One such solution is solar-plus-storage systems, which – unlike traditional photovoltaic (PV) systems – are capable of storing energy collected from the panels instead of using it immediately.
“Solar-plus-storage systems are great because you get the added benefit of using your PV system whenever you want, not just when the sun is shining,” said Terri MacGregor, Solar Design Engineer for ONTILITY Powered by Smith. “This flexibility means you can do a lot more with your system than what was previously possible.”
Solar-plus-storage systems help to maintain power-grid stability throughout the day. Rather than curtailing solar power production during low usage and peak sunlight hours, they can divert production to storage units, such as lithium-ion batteries, so that it can continue uninterrupted. Then, as solar production decreases during peak usage hours, power can be pulled from storage to reduce strain on the grid. Stored energy can also be used during power outages.
In the wake of the ongoing California wildfires, there’s been significant growth in sales for solar-plus-storage systems, as well as storage add-ons to existing PV systems. Other areas – including Hawaii, Florida, and the Northeast – are also expanding their systems rapidly. Last year, approximately 4 percent of all PV systems included a storage component, but that number has the potential to increase to as much as 27 percent by 2023.
“We are seeing an increase in requests for solar-plus-storage systems throughout the United States,” said Alexandra Harrison, Vice President of Sales and Procurement for ONTILITY.
One explanation for this rapid growth is the price reduction for lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are ideal storage units for PV systems because they are lightweight and rechargeable and can be installed almost anywhere due to their small footprint. Additionally, the demand for lithium-ion batteries in the electric vehicle market has increased substantially, thus increasing production and making these batteries more readily available. As such, prices for lithium-ion batteries have dropped 73 percent over the last seven years and are expected to fall an additional 45 percent by 2021. Sales, on the other hand, have risen drastically, with a record-breaking 232 percent market growth in the first quarter of 2019.
“As pricing continues to drop, solar-plus-storage is becoming a more practical option for many businesses and homeowners,” said Harrison. “Our team works closely with customers to understand their needs and budget to assess if solar-plus-storage might be a fit for them.”