Good News for the Future of Solar
By Martin Learn
Last April, snipers opened fire at an electrical power station near San Jose, CA and knocked out 17 huge transformers that funnel power to Silicon Valley. To avoid a blackout, power was rerouted to various plants in Silicon Valley that, consequently, had to produce more electricity to compensate. This lasted for 27 days. If solar battery systems had been installed at the San Jose power station, it certainly would have saved California a lot of electricity. The attack was carried out with military precision, they left no clues, and have a $250,000 reward for information leading to prosecution.
Solar battery systems are designed to store energy if there’s an outage. It sounds efficient and harmless enough, but utilities are afraid people will charge batteries with cheap nighttime power and offset expensive daytime purchases, which are more profitable for the utility. It wasn’t until May 15 of this year that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) finally approved a decision to ease the restrictions on solar battery projects and approve hundreds of applications that have been stalled for up to two years.
Here’s the problem with the utility companies’ argument: solar battery systems aren’t designed to arbitrage energy back onto the grid. They are designed to hold the batteries in reserve for a power outage. They only discharge when the grid goes down. It doesn’t even make sense to export the battery stored solar energy for net energy metering (NEM) credits because the cost of wearing down the battery is much more valuable than NEM credits.
But, finally, on May 15, 2014, the CPUC unanimously approved a decision that makes energy storage systems exempt from interconnection application fees, supplemental review fees, costs for distribution upgrades, and standby charges when interconnecting under the current NEM tariffs, provided they meet the following criteria: they are paired with NEM-eligible generation facilities and they qualify under the RPS Guidebook as an “addition or enhancement” to NEM-eligible systems. The decision also places limitations on the size of the battery storage systems and includes metering requirements to protect the NEM program. Eventually, being able to marshal the output of thousands of battery systems will help the stability of the grid and avoid line losses.
The CPUC’s decision to make battery-backed solar power more economically viable for homeowners certainly seems like a step in the right direction to help California reach its goal of becoming the country’s leader in energy storage.
For over thirteen years, our goal at Home Energy Systems has been to help California reach their green energy goals by helping our customers become energy self-sufficient. If you’re ready to go solar, please visit us at hessolar.com or give us a call at 619.692.2015.
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