There’s no doubt in my mind that battery storage will be an integral part of every solar installation. It’s like the early days of solar circa 2000: there is tremendous potential for battery storage, many stand alone and integrated products are available, but the equipment is still at a “first generation” stage. Without a doubt it is much more complicated to design, install and configure a solar + battery system than an ordinary solar system. Nevertheless, after testing and installing a number of products I’m happy to say that there are several systems available that provide both backup power and energy arbitrage, are reliable, and are backed by stable companies. Overall, these systems save commercial and residential customers money, especially in light of the ITC (Federal) and SGIP (California) incentives.
To help both customers and solar contractors navigate this new battery storage landscape, here are our tips for successful battery storage installations:
1. Lithium Ion battery technology currently provides the best long-term economic value.
2. Avoid component based solutions — buy a battery storage solution from vendors that have complete systems with firmware and software that is integrated.
3. Choose an energy storage contractor with experience and good customer references.
4. Select components from manufacturers that are that likely to be around for the life of the system.
5. Good data communications and software capabilities in an energy storage system are critical.
6. Expect delays with energy storage installations, especially during configuration and commissioning.
7. Permitting and inspections are more time consuming than ordinary solar.
8. Soft costs for battery storage systems are much higher as a percentage than ordinary solar: the sales-design-installation-configuration-troubleshooting learning curve is steep and limits profits on a contractor’s first few jobs.
9. Do your homework on new equipment releases — both from upstart and established companies.
10. Homeowners value backup power more highly than energy arbitrage.
Listen up to this week’s Energy Show as we go into the details that contribute to successful battery storage installations.