Published on August 28th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Battery Backup Has An Incentive In California

August 28th, 2013 by  

Most early adopters of solar PV systems originally had the hopes of having power even if the grid went down with a power outage, only to find out that was not how things worked with grid-tied solar PV systems — if the grid went down, electricity from their PV system was also unavailable. But now that original dream can become a reality. By adding energy storage to the solar PV system, solar PV owners can have the security of being grid-tied (so that they can pull from the grid when needed), but when there is a grid failure, they will still have power.

The California Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) has been brought back and is now including Advanced Energy Storage (aka battery backup). So, what does that mean for Californians? This is a big step towards energy independence, even for the grid-tied utility customer. How can we go from 30-40% clean energy all the way to +70% here in California? The answer is a more flexible grid. And energy storage is part of the solution that provides us with that flexibility.

With the revived program, homeowners or business owners who have already gone solar or are now installing a solar system can invest in energy storage and store their generated electricity for use later and avoid using the energy generated from their solar systems during peak times. It’s the old adage “buy low, sell high.”

Now customers of PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E can save $1.80/W for energy storage, plus an additional 20% of the incentive when installing products from a California supplier. There are of course limitations and exclusions of this program – customers must be grid-tied to one of the eligible utilities, must use new equipment installed by a California-licensed contractor, and cannot be connected to a non-renewable generator, such as a standard diesel generator. But for that, they are only required to pay a minimum of 40% of the project cost!

The SGIP was first introduced in 2001, in response to the California energy crisis. It was suspended in 2010 in order to preserve program funding while bill 412 was enacted, which shifted focus to the reduction of GHG emissions. This program was recently brought back and includes energy storage.

The purpose of the Advanced Energy Storage part of this incentive is to reduce the strain on the grid during peak times, reduce GHG emissions, and relieve the utilities from upgrading many of the transmission lines needed. But it gives the customer so much more. I believe it’s what most of us have been waiting for, the next evolution in renewable energy.

This incentive is in place for residential customers, but also includes: commercial, industrial, nonprofit, schools, local government, state government, federal government, and institutional. The incentive will decrease each year by 10%, so in 2014 it will go from $1.80/W to $1.62/W for energy storage.

Author Bio: Jessica is experienced in sales and marketing of renewable energy technology for commercial and residential use. She helps customers understand the benefits of generating power thru sustainable practices, to ensure a future of continued energy production and use. Jessica began her energy career at Real Goods Solar as a lead generator. She quickly moved into a solar power consultant role at RGS, where she excelled at helping residential homeowners understand the benefits of going solar. Jessica eventually was able to move into a role with RGS that brought her back to her core knowledge and education as the Marketing Manager for both the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Currently she is further developing her career in energy by working at JLM Energy, an energy technology company, as a Regional Sales Manager and Marketing Manager. Her commitment to renewable energy has brought her to JLM because of its unique portfolio approach to energy savings — wind technology, solar PV, solar thermal, LED lighting, energy storage, and monitoring for the complete energy integration system in one easy-to-use platform.

Image Credit: solar panels via Shutterstock

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  • LordV

    Can anyone point a link to companies that provide the inverters needed to do this. Looking for something that charges your batteries when sun shines, feeds surplus back into the grid or draws from the grid is usage peaks. draws from your own batteries first at night, or if a peak comes and your batteries are charged, reverts to full grid if your system falls over, and goes full off grid in the event of a grid power failure. basically best of all worlds. Would love some suggestions.

    • Bob_Wallace

      From Sun Electronics – their description of combination inverter/chargers.

      “An inverter/charger is a combination of an inverter, battery charger and transfer switch into one complete system. When AC power is available, the inverter/charger recharges the house batteries. It also allows any surplus AC power to pass through and power downstream AC loads. When AC power is
      disconnected, the unit inverts DC battery power into AC electricity.”

      What I don’t see in the description is something about using power from your house batteries when the Sun is down, rather than using grid power.

      Here’s what I would suggest. Go to the Sun site and contact them. I’ve asked a couple of questions before and found them to be responsible.

      Another solar company I find great to deal with, quite good about asking questions is Backwoods Solar.

      Perhaps one of them knows of an inverter that does what you want. (Or maybe all the combos do and it’s not clear from the description.)

      When you find the answer would you please post it back here?

      I will point out that using your own batteries for nighttime power is likely to be more expensive than using grid power. The only exception would be if you live where grid power is very expensive.

      Battery life is largely based on number of cycles, not so much on calendar age. If you cycle your batteries every night then you’ll have to replace them more often. Unless you’re paying at least $0.15/kWh for nighttime grid and getting no credit for solar you send to the grid I doubt the math is going to work for you.

    • Jes

      Hi LordV, JLM Energy
      is an energy technology company that has designed an energy storage system that can be grid-tied to create net-zero energy or off-grid to create your own micro-grid. Here’s a link to the page that illustrates the different modes of operation It will charge your batteries when the sun shines, feeding surplus back to the grid or can draw from the grid when usage peaks past the battery capacity. It can be programmed to draw from the battery first at night, and go full off-grid in the event of a grid power failure. It what we’ve all been waiting for…
      I wrote this guest post for CleanTechnica to let people know about the energy storage incentive, but would be happy to direct you to more information. You can reach me directly at
      Wishing you all the best,

    • SteveD

      Schneider (past Xantrex) make inverter/chargers that can meet the needs you described. Model 4548 and 6048 are two standard models.

  • Matt

    What keeps you from using you solar panel during a outage is not lack of local storage. It is lack of the disconnect box. When the grid goes down, they do not want you pushing electrons on to the wire that the lineman have been told are turned off. If you buy a whole house backup gas generator, you consider the grid disconnect as part of the installation. Not so with most PV, they could but don’t. The batteries are for when the sun goes down at night. Yes a few more details there, but the disconnect is a real show stopper. In fact without it, having batteries doesn’t solve the grid down problem.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Or you could use an inverter that disconnects itself from the grid but continues to produce power to the house.

      They are generally sold under the category of grid tie inverters with battery backup.

      • Matt

        Yes Bob, my point was that it was already possible to still use you PV system when the grid dies. But it does require you keep the your power in your house, until the grid comes back.

      • Kimbal

        Off the grid living save the planet of co2 emission. Too many people are on the grid polluting the planet, when you can setup a off grid system which can power all your energy needs. off grid system are not affected by grid down back outs.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Please describe an off the grid system that can be very low CO2 and affordable. In some place that doesn’t get sunshine 360 days a year or have wind or micro-hydro potential.

      • Luke

        Solar power is one good thing but not on the grid off course. The main grid which many people have, are coal backed-up generation, so Solar/Battery off grid system can store all your energy needs, no need for dirty power from the main grid. A good size system battery bank of 100kw will provide the needs, coupled to a good invertor or even dc it-self will work well. Long term benefits are zero to no emission generated unlike on grid systems currently do.

        I have been living off the grid for 25 years and have expanded my off grid system as the prices came down, from 30kw battery bank to 100kw battery bank, off course you need it for hot water about 30kw a day just for that alone.

        As you can see for your self that off grid is zero based emission when compared to on grid solar CO2 base load generation which is carbon intensive.

        • Bob_Wallace

          How do you deal with days of no sunshine?

          How much does your electricity cost per kWh?

          A 100 kWh battery bank is pretty big. What sort of batteries do you use?

  • Al Scott

    I have a UK Patent covering “a method of producing hydrogen as fuel via batteries” this is in effect a stand alone low-voltage household, where low-voltage DC current is generated by one or a number of forms of renewable energy. Banks of batteries are systematically charged and discharged with the aim of producing H2 as fuel for a linked vehicle wit a h2 motor powered series generator (instead of a fuel cell) to use the impure H2.
    I believe that the savings from being off-grid and not having vehicle fuel to pay for, will help to recover the outlay. Here in the UK with the spiraling costs of energy and fuel, there is a good chance of having a monthly surplus if the installations and vehicle were to be on a leaseholder basis.
    Cuts 10 Tonnes of CO2 annually in the UK, in the US that could be 22 tonnes. (Report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.)

  • MJ

    How does the $/watt rebate work with batteries? Batteries are usually sized by amp hours, or kilowatt hours, not watts/kilowatts

    • Jes

      Basically batteries are sized by kVa (kilo Volt amp). Volt x amp = Watt. So, kVa = kW. You must divide by the hours to remove them from the equation. Hope that helps!

  • Marion Meads

    When the electric utilities begin to feel that solar PV is eating their lunch, the customers should stay one step ahead by incorporating energy storage system. The next revolution after solar PV should be cheap battery storage system. That would be the next big investment.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That will/could happen if batteries drop significantly in price. Right now battery storage is fairly expensive.

      (If you know of a cheap storage battery, please let me know. I’m getting ready to fork out a bunch for a new set.)

      • Marion Meads

        Many Nissan Leaf Batteries should be dead weight in a year or two that it makes no sense to lug them around with little charging power in them, but good enough for stationary applications. They should be cheap, because they are now less energy dense per unit weight.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I suppose you’re right about ‘dead in a year or two’. That is, if you assume owners will drive 50,000 to 100,000 miles per year.

          “They should be cheap, because they are now less energy dense per unit weight.”

          Well, they would be 20% less energy dense per unit weight”. Would they be worth little to the utility with 80% of their capacity remaining? I suppose someone would say so if they were trying to make untrue claims about EVs. That’s not something you would be doing, would it?

          • Marion Meads

            Well Bob, I think you are one of the most blatantly ignorant person I have encountered. You have never read about the Arizona Leaf owners gripe about losing bars because of the poor thermal management system of Nissan Leaf battery packs. You don’t even need to drive your Leaf around many moronic miles to degrade the batteries, the baking temperature will do its job under the Arizona sun. I got you there for your ignorance!

            The price of the less energy dense used batteries would be less per unit kWh stored simply because it is not efficient to carry around, and they are used.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yeah, I’m so ignorant that I don’t know that it’s only a few (22) that have experienced that problem and it may be tied to using rapid chargers when it’s really hot.

            I’m also so ignorant that I don’t know that Nissan is testing, and close to releasing, batteries that aren’t affected by hot weather. I don’t know that Nissan expects to be manufacturing those batteries in April.

            And I’m also so ignorant that I don’t know that Nissan has given the 22 EVs that have reported problems a certificate for a battery replacement if they require a second battery exchange within five years.

            Man, how can one individual be so incredible ignorant?

            Oops, I’m sorry. Be so blatantly ignorant.

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