Blackouts Accelerate Trend to Solar, Batteries

October 29, 2019

It may not quite pencil out, yet, in normal times, – but these are not normal times.

Customers who are losing all their grid power due to Fire-induced blackouts are motivated,  looking at their options for power production and backup.

Of course, more sales, means more production, which means lower prices, which means more sales…..

San Francisco Chronicle:

At Solaria, an Oakland company that builds solar panels and related products, the latest blackouts have triggered a “continued surge in interest and demand for those systems,” said CEO Suvi Sharma. “In a way, there is almost no other event like that to spur interest in solar systems.”

Just adding solar panels won’t help in a blackout; homeowners need a way to store the power they generate.

Sunrun has over time installed over 6,000 batteries, which cost $10,000 and help people keep the lights on and food fresh for 8 to 12 hours on a single charge. A majority opt for a lease like Krause, the company said.

“Climate change is not going away and we’re going to have to adapt to this new reality, so investing in this is better than the short-term solution,” said Audrey Lee, Sunrun vice president of energy services.

Not everyone can afford the investment, which the state recognizes. Just before the outage earlier this month, the California Public Utilities Commission expanded its low-income home solar subsidy program to provide $8.5 million in incentives annually through 2030 to reduce the cost of going solar. A new incentive program rolling out in 2020 should pay for the system for critical facilities and medical need customers, said Scott Murtishaw, senior adviser for regulatory affairs with California Solar & Storage Association. He also predicted storage costs would decrease between 10% to 20% yearly.

But when an outage hits, people want cheaper and faster options.

Before Kensington resident Lauren Tyler lost power for less than 24 hours in the last outage, she rushed to REI and spent $2,600 on GoalZero solar panels and a lithium ion battery that could keep her fridge and internet going. For her, it was worth it to prepare for next time.

At GoalZero, a Utah company that makes portable solar panels, batteries and kits, the hottest selling product during and after the outage was a battery system costing $1,800 that’s strong enough to power a fridge for more than a day, according to spokesman Zach Allen. It takes 25 hours to recharge when plugged into an outlet and anywhere from 41 to 120 hours in the sun, he said.

Orinda resident Robert Eikel also lost power for more than a day, but he kept his lights on and communication devices charged through a Christmas present from his wife: a solar-powered kit by BioLite that includes lights, cables and a radio that lasted all night.

Biolite has sold more than 500 SolarHome 620 kits — which cost $150 — on its website, not including Amazon or brick-and-mortar stores, but it didn’t see a significant spike related to the power outage, spokesman Chris Dickey said.

The kit doesn’t have enough power to keep the fridge running, so Eikel still had to buy ice and pack food in coolers. He has looked at getting a larger solar system or a generator but hasn’t done so yet.

“If this becomes a regular occurrence, we would definitely think about it,” he said.

Solar storage systems may not work for everyone. Lafayette resident Joe Di Prisco said the two Tesla Powerwalls that it took a year to install at the cost of $40,000 have worked during past outages — but didn’t hold during the duration of the recent PG&E shut-off.

The high upfront cost of battery storage will probably be a barrier to many people, but some utilities are experimenting with novel lease arrangements that will equip their customers with battery storage, which then becomes part of the utility’s toolbox for meeting peak demand.

Green Mountain Power:

It was oppressive and super-hot outside, a few days into the July heatwave, when Mike Wheeler looked at an app on his phone. It showed him that the two Tesla Powerwalls – essentially big batteries – in his basement were draining power. It might seem like a bad thing, but he was smiling. This is exactly what was supposed to happen.

“It was so cool! I thought, ‘it’s going to grid right now,’“ Wheeler said.

Wheeler got those Powerwall batteries through a partnership with Green Mountain Power. They provide backup power for his home, like a generator would during an outage. But, instead of using oil or gas, Powerwalls get their charge by storing energy from either the electrical grid, or from a customer’s solar panels.

Hundreds of GMP customers, just like Wheeler, now have this kind of clean, cutting edge back up power in their homes. And, all those Powerwalls played a big role in cutting carbon and costs for all customers during the heatwave. What Mike Wheeler was seeing on his app, was GMP sharing access and leveraging the stored energy in those Powerwalls to put back on the grid during those high use heatwave days. GMP also used energy from larger batteries at its solar facilities in Rutland in Panton to try to “beat the peak” – all of that power deploying at one time to reduce demand and cut costs directly for customers.

The result? The equivalent of taking 5,000 homes off the grid – and that created savings for all GMP customers that could reach $500,000.

“This is a game changer. We’re thrilled that our work to be on the edge of innovation and deploy these new technologies in partnership with customers and communities is really paying off for all of the customers we serve,” said Mary Powell, GMP’s president and CEO.  “During the heat wave, we were able to leverage these innovations to think differently about managing the energy system affordably, allow our customers to use their cooling systems to stay safe and comfortable, all while lowering the peak, ensuring the stability and safety of the grid, and driving down costs.”

Along with GMP’s solar-storage facilities in Rutland and Panton and about 500 Tesla Powerwalls, GMP also has partnerships with thousands of customers to tap into stored energy in their water heaters or reduce electricity flow through their EV chargers when power demand is high, increasing savings for all customers. During the hours of peak demand, this helped GMP offset approximately 17,600 pounds of carbon, the equivalent of not using about 910 gallons of gasoline. GMP’s everyday power sources are 90 percent carbon free.

Customer Mike Wheeler likes the energy sharing partnership he has with GMP. “We signed up to have Powerwall battery backup at home so our family can get through occasional outages and not rely on a fossil fuel generator. But, knowing our choice to get a Powerwall helped all GMP customers to cut costs during the heatwave is a great extra benefit, like you’re doing something for the common good.”

GMP customers pay $15 per month for a Powerwall, or a one-time payment of $1,500. That’s significantly less than the $7,000 to $8,000 it would cost to buy the battery on your own and have it installed.


6 Responses to “Blackouts Accelerate Trend to Solar, Batteries”

  1. Reblogged this on The Most Revolutionary Act and commented:
    The high upfront cost of battery storage will probably be a barrier to many people, but some solar utilities are experimenting with novel lease arrangements that will equip their customers with battery storage, which then becomes part of the utility’s toolbox for meeting peak demand.

  2. […] via Blackouts Accelerate Trend to Solar, Batteries — Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I don’t understand the chyron at about 0:42 that says:
    “Californians learning that solar panels don’t work in blackouts.”
    It doesn’t correlate at all with what is being discussed at the time it appears.

  4. J4Zonian Says:

    It certainly is odd, but what isn’t in corporate media?

    There’s a bit of an answer here: 2nd of 3 articles David Roberts is doing on it.

    “A customer with the right kind of equipment (a smart inverter) can “island” off from the grid in the case of power failure, effectively becoming a freestanding electricity system. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who have installed rooftop solar panels in California do not have a smart inverter and thus can’t island. Many have recently discovered that to their chagrin. To get resilience benefits, solar panels must be coupled with storage and a smart inverter.”

    Roberts also mentions the terrifying near-certainty of one way we’re going to become a neo-feudal country: rich people behind electrical ‘gated communities’ in the grid equivalent of the health care public option while the vast majority of increasingly poor people stuck with an increasingly unreliable and expensive grid, with fires, floods, storms, heat waves, droughts, and social chaos that finally just permanently erase such amenities from our lives and landscapes. Near-certainty, that is, unless we stop it, through revolution.

  5. redskylite Says:

    “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”

    – George Orwell

    As the last few days proved change must come quickly, and while self contained gated communities, with own sources of power, may offer reassurance to the wealthier, it won’t satisfy the needs of most state residents.

    California has to move on all fronts with massive investment on energy especially, the governor was planning to launch a satellite to track state CO2 emitters – maybe better to sink that finance into energy, and hope the satellites will be federally sponsored eventually.

    The video points to some of the technology available and necessary to tackle the new normal. Just add money and bi-partisan cooperation/will, else all roads lead to despair.

    AGL signs huge battery storage deal, hails “dawn of battery age”

    The batteries are expected to be installed by 2023, in time for the anticipated closure of the ageing Liddell coal-fired generator. It is a massive announcement because it heralds the arrival of battery storage as a cost-competitive option for the main grid.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: