Six Important Questions Solar Owners Should Ask About Storage
In 2020, SunPower announced the newest addition to its portfolio of streamlined solar solutions, SunVault™ storage. And while storage isn’t a new concept, there are still a number of questions and misconceptions about its role in managing energy production and costs. Below are the top six inquiries we hear about storage and our candid answers.
Why is energy storage important?
As we learned last summer in California and just this February in Texas, electric utility providers are prone to employing public safety power shutoffs to help mitigate loss and conserve energy. For safety reasons, solar panels installed must also turn off when the grid goes down. This has led many solar-powered homeowners to seek a product that can keep their homes powered during an outage. Batteries provide a happy glimpse into a future in which utilities are less reliant on big power plants in favor of a network of distributed energy resources (known as DERs) across their grid.
How does solar + storage work during an outage?
To power a home during an outage, a microgrid must be established. A microgrid is a closed system that mimics the power provided by the utility grid. With SunVault, when a grid outage is detected, the microgrid kicks on in just milliseconds (the lights in your home will barely flicker). To preserve the battery to power the most important things in the home like the refrigerators, lighting and pumps. Non-essential appliances like AC units, which use a lot of energy, are usually programmed to turn off during these events. The goal is to create a harmonious system that can last a few hours — or in the worst case a few weeks — until grid power is restored.
Does storage benefit the grid?
Every solar power system, regardless of storage, benefits the grid and eases strain on utilities. Storage supercharges that benefit by lessening the load. In the future, utilities are considering ways to interact with the storage customers more actively to provide additional grid stability. This strategy will be key as renewables become more popular.
Is my existing SunPower system compatible with SunVault?
Today, SunVault is only available to homeowners with the newest SunPower Equinox® AC module technology on their roofs. However, it will eventually be available to SunPower customers with legacy systems.
Why does storage costs so much?
In 35+ years of solarizing homes, we have learned that every home is different. Storage requires an even deeper dive into the anatomy of homes to understand the electrical wiring of the home and how the homeowners use power. Each home requires custom installation as well as robust and reliable hardware and energy management systems. Thankfully, the cost of the equipment itself has fallen dramatically. Similar to solar power, the costs of these custom installations installed by licensed professionals — like those in the SunPower dealer network — are greater than the equipment cost itself.
What’s the value of storage?
Unlike the clear economics of solar panels, the value of solar + storage is spread across additional considerations like grid reliability, utility programs and the emergency needs of the homeowner. So at this time, the value of storage is unique to the homeowner. That said, utility companies are also seeing the benefit of storage to the grid. It’s foreseeable that they will continue to modify their policies to incentivize homeowners to install storage in conjunction with their solar. This can be seen today in California, with utilities offering daily incentives for solar + storage homeowners to use their battery power from 4 p.m.-9 p.m. when utility power is at peak pricing.
In conclusion, SunVault is a reliable and beautiful solar + storage solution. While the value of storage will differ for homeowners across the United States, the price and functionality are ready to transform the way we power this country and the world.