Battery Storage

Harness the Power of Your Existing Solar

Battery storage is a logical, practical complement to solar. Solar takes care of the kWh usage cost  while battery storage can mitigate the kW demand costs (two different line items on commercial PG&E invoices), all in an effort to reduce the dependence on utilities and costs.

A major goal here at Chico Electric is to create a micro grid for our customers' operations so they won’t have to be connected to the utility at all. Battery storage technology is a big step in that direction.
—Norm Nielsen

Harnessing the power of your existing solar system—whether it’s an irrigation pump, almond processor, rice dryer, etc.—can shave the kW demand costs and save you money. Storage also will ultimately solve the solar saturation problem the utilities are having now, which is creating delays for many of our customers.

Working with our partner, Regatta Solutions, we are providing customers with the microturbine technology to generate both heat to supplement their thermal demands, and electricity for their power demands. Regatta Solutions has established itself as a premier, national energy solutions expert and is the exclusive Capstone Turbine Corporation Western US dealer.

regatta-logoWe’re ahead of the legislative and regulatory curve when it comes to complementary energy systems. Working diligently with our legislature and regulators, we want to be sure utility rates and regulations complement renewable energy and distributed generation (DG). (DG refers to customer-owned and sited systems.)

Contact us to discuss adding adding battery storage to your system. We look forward to working with you.

For more information on energy storage usage and trends, check out the following article by Christopher Mims from WSJ:

Your Next Home Could Run on Batteries

A combination of solar power and the rise of residential energy storage paves the way for a new kind of cable cutting

In the near future, your home could be battery operated.

This is especially true if you live in New York, California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, Arizona or a growing roster of other states and municipalities experimenting with revamping their electrical grids for the 21st century.

You might not even know your lights are being kept on by the same chemical process that powers your smartphone, since the batteries could be tucked into what looks like a neighborhood junction box, or behind a fence in a substation. But now, thanks to efforts by startups and the utility companies they sell to (and sometimes battle), you might get one right inside your home.

The rise of these home batteries isn’t just a product of our collective obsession with new tech. Their adoption is being driven by a powerful need, says Ravi Manghani, of GTM Research: renewable energy.

Without batteries and other means of energy storage, the ability of utility companies to deliver power could eventually be threatened.

Solar power, especially, tends to generate electricity only at certain times—and it’s rarely in sync with a home’s needs. In some states, such as California and Arizona, there’s an overabundance of solar power in the middle of the day during cool times of the year, then a sudden crash in the evenings, when people get home and energy use spikes.

For utilities, it’s a headache. The price of electricity on interstate markets can go negative at certain times, forcing them to dump excess electricity or pay others to take it.

“This is not a long-term theoretical issue that might happen—this is now,” says Marc Romito, director of customer technology at Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility.

There’s something ruggedly individualistic and inherently American about having batteries in your home. They’re good for keeping power going in a disaster, as customers of the two biggest firms by sales volume in this field, Sonnen and Tesla, demonstrated in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. And in combination with rooftop solar panels, they free people from total dependence on the grid—a kind of energy cable-cutting that wonks call “grid defection.”

The very real possibility of grid defection is changing the power dynamics between utilities and their customers.

Last week, real-estate developer Mandalay Homes announced a plan to build up to 4,000 ultra energy-efficient homes—including 2,900 in Prescott, Arizona—that will feature 8 kilowatt-hour batteries from German maker Sonnen. It could eventually be the biggest home energy-storage project in the U.S., says Blake Richetta, senior vice president at Sonnen.

The homes, which will come with the Sonnen battery preinstalled, will be part of a Sonnen-managed “virtual power plant for demand response” that could allow the houses to stabilize the grid, lower its carbon footprint and decrease peak load, says Mr. Richetta.

While the Mandalay Homes project is still in the blueprint stage, with only one test home built so far, this kind of radical, battery-enabled rethink of the grid is already happening in Vermont.

In partnership with Tesla Energy, Green Mountain Power is offering 2,000 of its customers the opportunity to have a Tesla Powerwall in their home for $15 a month. The 13.5 kilowatt-hour batteries retail for $5,500, but the utility can afford to put them in homes because they help the company save on other grid infrastructure, says Mary Powell, GMP’s chief executive and president. “Peaker plants,” for instance, are fired up only when the grid is strained to maximum capacity, saving the utility from using one of its most expensive forms of electricity.

GMP also uses batteries from Sonnen, SimpliPhi and Sunverge. Ms. Powell says the larger battle for home battery storage will be over how each of these companies—and dozens of others—differentiates itself, selling different size batteries adapted for different uses in homes, businesses and utilities.

Arizona Public Service’s Mr. Romito says not all of these batteries are created equal—though he wouldn’t name names.

For more information on energy storage usage and trends, check out the following summary of a recent article by Anna Hirtenstein of Bloomberg:

Energy Storage Market Strong and Rising

Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecasts that storing power in batteries at a utility scale will be as common in 12 years as rooftop solar panels are now, giving consumers a revolutionary new method for storing and using energy.

An article by Anna Hirtenstein from Bloomberg News states, “… the energy storage market may be valued at $250 billion or more by 2040. It expects 25 GW of the devices to be deployed by 2028, about the size of the small-scale photovoltaic industry now.”

This will present a major challenge to the traditional utility business model which tends to be monopolistic and where power generation and distribution exist in a single company. New energy storage devices will be available to round out changeable power flows from wind and solar sources, reducing the need for large fossil fuel-based generation facilities.

Costs Will Drop

Julia Attwood, a storage analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says, “Batteries will get a boost as costs drop and developers see the chance for lucrative new revenue streams. Batteries could offer a whole range of services to the grid — they have the flexibility that will allow renewables a larger stake in energy generation.”

Worldwide, there is less than 1 GW of batteries operating. BNEF estimates that by 2040, the battery storage industry will skyrocket, storing and discharging 759 GWh.

Because the spread of electric cars is driving up demand for lithium ion batteries, manufacturers are ramping up production and cutting costs. The technology behind the lithium ion battery is also driving the battery storage industry. This is the same technology for storage devices that are attached to utility grids and rooftop solar units.

By 2030, BNEF expects the cost of a KWh to drop by half from current prices.
This technology will help even out the variable production problems that can come with renewables. Solar and wind simply do not work in dark or calm conditions respectively, creating energy gaps. While natural gas and coal currently fill those gaps, eventually power storage units can assume the burden.

In 2040, it is estimated that 35 percent of all light vehicles sold will be electric, which is equivalent to 41 million cars— 90 times the figure in 2015. The rise in investments in renewables is expected to hit $7.8 trillion by 2040, as compared to $2.1 trillion for fossil-fuel generation.

“The battery industry today is driven by consumer products like computers and mobile phones,” said Claire Curry, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New York. “Electric vehicles will be the driver of battery technology change, and that will drive down costs significantly.”

While the industry is on its way, it’s not there yet. Pumped hydro is still 95 percent of the world’s grid-connected energy storage today, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Pumped hydro technology only works in areas with specific topographies as surplus energy is used to shift large amounts of water uphill to a hydropower reservoir so it can be used to produce electricity later.

According to S&P Global, there are several larger-scale battery projects in the works, include a 90-MW system in Germany and a 100-MW facility in Long Beach, California.

Simon Moores, managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a battery researcher based in London, says, “Utility-scale storage is the new emerging market for batteries, kind of where electric vehicles were five years ago. EVs are now coming of age.”