Solar Power and Energy Storage in California Are Rising Significantly

In 2012, solar power accounted for just 2 percent of the total electricity PG&E delivered to customers in Northern and Central California. In 2015, solar accounted for more than 11 percent of total retail electric sales. With solar coming from small rooftops and vast fields of sun-drenched panels, solar energy is playing a key role in California’s fight to increase renewable energy sources.

Solar: Largest Source of California Renewable Energy

Solar has surpassed other forms of renewable energy such as wind and geothermal to become the largest source of energy eligible under California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS). The state mandate requires utilities to provide 33 percent of their energy from eligible renewable resources by 2020, and a new standard of 50 percent by 2030.

Rooftop solar also continues to grow rapidly in California, providing customers with energy savings and reducing demand on the electrical grid during peak solar production times. PG&E connected more than 65,000 customers to its electric grid in 2015 – about 60 percent more than in 2014. PG&E now has more than 250,000 solar customers, more than any other utility in the nation.

In fact, so much solar has come online in California, that at times, too much electric generation is online and energy companies have curtailed (taken off of the grid) some forms of generation.

The Future: Energy Storage Technology

PG&E is exploring different solutions to help address operational challenges like this in order to maintain safe and reliable power for its customers, including energy storage technology solutions to power the future.

California enacted four new laws in September to promote energy storage even though California already leads the nation in energy storage deployments, but the state legislature decided there was more to do on the policy end.

The legislature directs the California Public Utilities Commission to evaluate the role large-scale storage can play for the integration of renewable energy, create an independent body to resolve storage interconnection disputes, expand funding for the Self-Generation Incentive Program and urge the state’s three investor-owned utilities to invest in up to 500 megawatts of storage projects.

California has set a high bar for clean energy achievement and aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 to meet the 50 percent renewable requirement. Reaching such high amounts of variable renewable generation all but requires a wider build-out of storage capacity to give the grid more control over when that wind and solar power is consumed. Whereas storage bills have languished in Congress, California’s leaders have demonstrated they know what storage can do and want to enlarge its role in the state.

“These four bills will accelerate the market opportunities for energy storage in California and give the state more options for how to use storage to meet the grid’s needs,” said Alex Morris, director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at the California Energy Storage Alliance.

With 73.2 megawatts of storage capacity, California has deployed more storage than any other single state. Other states are watching, so the optimization underway in this jurisdiction will set an example for younger storage markets.

What’s Holding Us Back?

In order for a storage market to thrive, developers have to have a simple and predictable way to connect newly deployed systems to the grid. In order to encourage energy storage hits the residential market as well, JLM Energy and Fronius Solar unveiled Smart Solar and storage technology for the home at Intersolar over the summer. When you combine high-tech and energy, really cool things emerge. The two companies debuted a synergistic renewable energy plus storage ecosystem for the home, called Energizr 200.

This technology includes an inverter that connects directly to Wi-Fi, providing customers with immediate data on how much power they are consuming and how much power the solar system is producing. All of this is integrated with the Honeywell Lyric smart thermostat so customers can remotely pre-cool their home during less expensive hours and avoid peak rates during the dinner hour.

Energy storage using battery systems is becoming the next BIG THING in the home energy arena. This technology is especially important in states like California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada where net metering is going away and residential demand charges are being added.

This article first appeared in the December 07, 2016 issue of the Rossmoor News, author Kent Steele

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