WHAT ARE BATTERIES?
While referred to as Energy Storage Systems (ESS) in our industry, it refers to Lithium-ion batteries for most of us. Batteries provide electricity during power outages or substitute for grid power when utility rates are high.
WHY DO WE NEED THEM?
Battery backup systems coupled with solar are being hailed as the best solution to public safety power shutoffs in California — not to mention our archaic electric grid.
Not only are these systems ideal for powering a home when the grid goes down, but they have the bonus of potentially reducing electricity costs and supporting the grid during periods of high demand. Conventional generators rely on a reliable fuel source, which might not always be available during a disaster or fire, need regular maintenance to function, generate emissions, and sometimes require a flammable fuel tank placed on your property.
We are starting to see more widespread adoption of batteries in California, mostly because of the ever-increasing power outages brought on by record wildfires over the recent years. During an active fire, power can be out for an extended time, sometimes weeks. As downed power lines cause many of our fires, utilities have recently been allowed at their discretion to cut power during strong winds to prevent wildfires. Even without an evacuation order, people are unable to remain in their homes without power.
A couple of years ago, a report predicted the brown-outs that occurred this past fall and expect it to get worse in the future as California has several power plants scheduled for decommissioning with no new ones on the drawing board. Even without the state’s plan to phase out gas-powered vehicles in 15 years, industry trends are for electric vehicles to count for over half of all vehicle sales in 2035, requiring a large increase in power for California.
These power outages are not only an inconvenience for homeowners and businesses but usually occur during the hottest times of the year. Batteries provide one of the most reliable solutions to a problem that is expected to worsen in the upcoming years.
INCENTIVES AND FINANCING:
Currently, California’s SGIP rebate program incentivizes home and business owners to install batteries. This program provides two types of cash rebates: Standard and Equity Resiliency. The Standard rebate at $200/kWh, is available to all homeowners and businesses that install batteries on their properties. The Equity Resiliency rebate is a very generous program that provides a $1,000/kWh cash incentive. It was created to offset the devastating effects of the frequent and prolonged power outages in fire zone areas and specifically targets homeowners with either medical conditions or that rely exclusively on well water (there is an income cap for those applying under well water). This program offsets most of the battery cost so that homeowners can install batteries to protect their health and well-being without worrying about the cost. A 26% federal tax credit against the system cost is available for those who already have solar panels or install solar panels with batteries.
Contact us to see if you qualify for the Equity Resiliency SGIP program.
We offer several low-cost financing programs, including battery leases and low APR loans for direct purchases.
Contact us to see to learn more about financing.
HOW DO BATTERIES WORK?
While batteries do not need solar power to work, they make the perfect couple. During grid outages, the solar can continue generating power to provide energy to your home or building. If it’s an extended outage, you could power your home or business almost indefinitely. Most with existing solar are aware that when the grid goes down, the solar stops working.
For most of the year, when the grid is up, homeowners will charge their batteries in the morning using solar when utility rates are low. In the evening, when rates can be 4x higher, they discharge the batteries to minimize the amount of power purchased from the utility company.
It’s possible to charge batteries using grid power, but to take advantage of the 26% federal tax credit, the batteries need to be charged with solar energy.
Batteries can either be installed with a new PV system or retrofitted with an existing system. With new systems, the overlap of battery and solar components reduces the cost. Retrofitting batteries to an existing system won’t affect the current system’s installation and equipment warranties since we do not touch any of the PV system components.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF BATTERIES:
Most batteries on the market are Lithium-ion batteries using two different types of chemistry. The most widely installed battery chemistry is the older NMC (lithium manganese cobalt oxide); however, the newer LFP (lithium iron phosphate) is predicated to eventually dominate the energy storage market. While the well-known brands of Tesla and LG use NMC, the LFP chemistry is superior across nearly every metric. NMC batteries have dominated until now due to their lower costs, but require active cooling, can be subject to thermal runaway, and once they catch fire, can be very difficult to extinguish. It’s the reason airlines do not allow the batteries in check baggage.
LFP batteries have greater thermal and structural stability and do not require active cooling. They often have twice the number of discharge cycles as NMC, degrade at a slower annual rate, and do not suffer damage if 100% discharged.
To realize the benefits of an LFP battery, installing batteries from a manufacturer with high-quality control processes is essential. Many of us have had 10-year LED lightbulbs burnout in less than a year. Examples of LFP battery manufacturers we have worked with include SimpliPhi, NeoVolta, and Fortress Power. We like these systems because they combine quality and value. They offer more power and greater design flexibility to either cover your home’s basic needs or provide whole-house backup, including your air conditioner, during an extended power outage. Remember, in the warm climate of SoCal, power outages and wildfires usually happen during the hottest times of the year.
We offer several low-cost financing programs, including battery leases and low APR loans for direct purchase.