Blog Post

Storage Delivers Resiliency and Security Against Growing Threats to Grid Power

With extreme weather events, wildfires, earthquakes and other threats to energy security increasing in number and duration, homeowners from coast to coast and businesses from Main Street to Wall Street are contending with an ever-present danger of losing access to reliable power supplies. Beyond emergency scenarios, utilities in California have also begun instituting “public safety power shutoff” blackouts during high-wind conditions to prevent power lines from causing more fires.

A 100 percent solar + storage powered clinic at Burning Man.

According to the ITIC’s 2017 Reliability and Hourly Cost of Downtime Trends Survey, an hour of energy downtime costs a company on average more than $100,000 with one-third of companies reporting an hour of downtime costing them $1 million or more. On a smaller scale, though no less important, homeowners are also vulnerable to economic losses, which can be further exacerbated by potential related dangers to family health and safety.

In this environment, disaster preparedness and recovery plans are critical for both residential and commercial customers.

Energy storage plays a central role in the design of reliable backup and emergency power systems that protect homes and business operations when power is intermittent or completely unavailable. For solar installers, delivering storage solutions that insulate home and business owners from grid instability and lack of availability in times of crisis presents a compelling business opportunity, protecting their residential and commercial customers from being vulnerable and at risk.

Storage solutions can be as diverse as the range of customers who need them, with customers deciding what backup capacity is critical for their home or business.

One homeowner might decide to create a backup system utilizing a sub panel to back up critical loads like the refrigerator, a home medical device, a computer, cell phone charging, lights and the HVAC system, while another could desire a large battery bank sized to support the home’s entire utility load.

On the commercial side, a growing business might require back up of mission critical systems such as servers, payment systems, refrigeration, and communications. An airport, on the other hand, could need critical power for loads for multiple days of energy autonomy. An indoor sports complex might desire a microgrid capable of islanding from the grid to support life-saving operations if transformed into an emergency shelter.

For residential and commercial customers who already employ diesel generators for backup power, integrating storage with generators lessens the number of hours they need to run and the gallons of fuel they need to burn. In this way, the generator becomes a battery charging supply rather than a primary power source. Optimizing generator function in this way delivers a 50-80% savings in fuel and dramatically reduces noise, toxic pollution and energy insecurity. Technologies such as Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) have extremely high efficiency rates and low levels of self discharge over time, which can play a key role in cutting diesel consumption by storing energy for a longer duration without degrading or losing power until that time that an end user needs it.

Solar customers also benefit from storage during catastrophic events and planned outages. Rather than losing power when the grid goes down, batteries and the inverter charge controllers enable homes or businesses with PV systems to ‘island’ from the grid and retain access to their own generation by creating a mini-microgrid for as long as the grid is unavailable.

No matter the requirement, energy storage can deliver the flexibility to size battery banks to keep homes and businesses up and running safely and securely over the course of multiple days. The expertise required to design such systems is a natural business extension for solar installers in a time when energy security is top of mind for both residential and commercial customers. Factors to consider in selecting the right energy storage to meet your objectives are how scalable, efficient, safe and long-lasting the batteries are.

This blog post first appeared as part of Solar Builder's 12-Days of Storage Series.