The Promises Of Batteries To Bolster Solar Energy
Solar-plus-storage has actually been around for decades. In fact, it was what kickstarted the solar industry in the early 1980s. A bunch of marijuana “farmers” in northern California who weren’t connected to the grid needed a way to get electric lights for their grow operations. A young hippie stumbled upon an ARCO solar panel at a consumer electronics show, and soon after founded AEE Solar and started powering off-grid homes with solar panels and car batteries, and his customers always paid in cash.
With the 1990s’ deregulation and incentives for solar PV, grid-connected systems became popular, and the only people worried about storage were those trying to electrify remote homes in lesser-developed countries. But solar and storage systems became a hot topic once again in 1999, when people were worried about Y2K and the potential end of society as we know it. “We were glad when homeowners wanted to learn about grid-tied PV systems with battery storage,” Johnny Weiss, founder of Solar Energy International, told RMI. “After January 1, 2000 came and went without disaster, interest in batteries clearly seemed to become less important.”
That interest is now back. Whether due to disasters like Superstorm Sandy, when millions of homes lost power, or to the ability of commercial customers to reduce hefty demand charges through peak shaving, the idea of putting solar and batteries together is gaining a lot of renewed attention.
And pretty soon it won’t just be for those in the higher-income bracket. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that battery storage costs will fall 57 percent by 2020. And Lux Research sees the global market for PV systems combined with battery storage growing from the current $200 million dollars a year to $2.8 billion in 2018.
“We look at economics as the thing that will bring the critical mass to the tipping point,” says Guccione. “There has to be a whole wave of first movers—but the increasingly favorable economics will evolve solar-plus-battery systems from early adopters to a mainstream solution.” And that’s why it is so exciting that more companies are starting to offer battery storage. Solar installers will start to get asked if they offer battery storage options more often, and with more demand and more players entering the field, the price will go down, utility companies will come up with innovative business models, and a solar system without battery storage will seem so last decade.
Black Blade: Looking to add a passive solar power system with inverter and battery backup for my cabins. Would love to cut the cord and go "off-grid" entirely but so far just can't make it work as costs are too high along with maintenance costs that negate any long term savings (new batteries, panels, inverters, etc.). Once these issues are addressed fully and costs decline then I will be going completely off-grid.