Adding Solar and Storage to Homes for Energy Security

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Meet Todd Karin, a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a savvy clean-energy customer in California’s Bay Area.

Adding Solar and Storage to Homes

Last year, Todd decided to add solar and energy storage to his home in rural Solano County, knowing how important it is to be prepared for power outages that are common in his area. He installed a Panasonic solar panel array and later added a Tesla Powerwall for energy storage. Not only did he make an environmentally conscious decision, but he also made an economically smart choice.

The Benefits of Solar and Storage

Todd was able to rely on his backup system during the recent power outages that impacted almost 740,000 customers of Pacific Gas & Electric in the Bay Area. His backup system allowed the house to use water, the fridge, and even a table saw for woodworking. Many residential solar sellers, such as Sunnova, Sunrun, SunPower, and Tesla, are now offering energy storage products due to the recent power outages in California.

California Leads in Residential Solar Installations

California remains the top state for residential solar installations, and with a state mandate going into effect in January, all new homes will be required to include solar. California’s storage market is also the biggest in the U.S. and grew 70 percent from Q2 to Q3, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.

Resilience During Power Outages

Although no solar-plus-storage system currently on the market can completely support average U.S. electricity usage during a days-long blackout, analysts say these systems can still provide some level of resilience. Depending on the size of the battery, these home solar-plus-storage systems can keep the lights on, the internet running, and food from spoiling. However, it’s important to note that lack of access to HVAC can be dangerous for many people during an outage.

Determining Battery System Lifespan

So, how long will a battery system last during an outage? It depends on how much power your home uses, how big it is, and what the weather is like in your particular area. Certain applications and programs already on the market, such as Sense and Powerley, can give homeowners an idea of their usage. However, in a Catch-22, the apps might require power to function, though data on past power usage could help homeowners identify which appliances to prioritize.

Creating a “Nanogrid”

Sunnova is working on integrating traditional generators and demand-side management alongside its storage-plus-solar system to create a “nanogrid” that the company will then manage as a service provider. This solution isn’t as clean as solar-and-storage alone, but it could offer higher reliability during extended outages.

A Call for a Better and More Resilient Future

Todd and many other clean-energy customers in California recognize that climate change is worsening the impact of natural disasters, whether or not they live in California. It’s time for society to demand better service and solutions for energy security and self-sufficiency. Let’s work towards a better and more resilient future!

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