Solar-Plus-Storage Could Be Perfect Fit for Low-Income Communities

SolarStorageHI1 Solar photovoltaic installations coupled with battery storage can provide resilience during extended outages, such as the aftermath of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. Multi-day outages caused by storms can have an exacerbated effect on vulnerable populations, but the Clean Energy Group recently identified the coupled technologies as an ideal solution.

“Once disaster strikes, low-income and vulnerable populations — those requiring supportive services — have the most difficulty dealing with the consequences,” CEG said in its recent report tiled Resilience for Free. “Hospitals, nursing homes, 911 call centers, emergency shelters, and other critical facilities also need reliable, resilient electrical power to deliver emergency services to the community when the supporting power grid is down.”

Clean Energy Group works to expand clean energy markets and chose to analyze solar-plus-storage project models to determine whether it is economic to install the technologies together to power common area loads in multifamily affordable housing buildings. The group reviewed potential test cases under existing market and regulatory conditions in Washington, D.C, Chicago and New York City.

“This analysis is timely, as energy storage is beginning to play a larger role in the U.S. power system,” the group said in its report. “Companies like Tesla and SolarCity have done an exceptional job of connecting solar and battery storage in the public’s mind as a potent economic and climate mitigation strategy.”

But solar-plus-storage could have a greater impact for affordable housing developments, in particular, the group said. According to the report, solar-plus storage-can reduce operating costs in multifamily affordable housing. Batteries can provide additional efficiency to solar without any required change in resident behavior, CEG said.

“Energy and community developer experts should explore solar plus storage; it can be a complementary approach to reducing electricity bills for housing developers,” the group said in the report.

The business model could work well in public power communities, said Seth Mullendore, a project manager at CEG, during an Oct. 29 webinar. Municipal utilities may be more likely to harness these benefits because they tend to be smaller than investor-owned utilities and have the ability to be more progressive. He said public power utilities could work with energy storage system owners and developers to try and create synergistic relationships.

But for the projects to work in any community, targeted incentives may be necessary, the group said in the report. Washington, D.C, was found to be a favorable environment for solar-plus-storage installations because of the high price associated with solar renewable energy credits, or SRECs. Because the SREC price is so high, developers could recoup their investment in the project quickly and begin to turn a profit, the report found. But that isn’t the case everywhere.

“While our analysis finds favorable economic conditions for resilient solar-plus-storage project development in multifamily affordable housing in each of the three cities explored, it also illuminates the need for additional targeted support in those regions where markets and savings opportunities are less established,” CEG said.

Reposted with permission by Public Power Daily

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