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Empowering Solar Growth: The Winning Combo of Energy Storage and Community Solar

2024-03-07

In the rapidly expanding landscape of community solar, a model coined as "solar for all," individuals and businesses subscribe to locally generated electricity credits from solar projects. As of mid-2023, the community solar market has soared to nearly 6 GW, spanning 41 states and Washington, D.C. Unveiling a potential catalyst for broader adoption is the strategic integration of energy storage.

 

While marrying energy storage with community solar doesn't alter project design or installation significantly, it emerges as a decisive factor in propelling these solar initiatives to success. According to Georgina Arreola, VP of policy at Perch Energy, a leading community solar customer manager, the inclusion of storage not only enhances project economics but also attracts additional incentives from utilities and states, fostering a more widespread embrace of community solar nationwide.

 

In certain states, projects embracing energy storage can earn compensation for supplying electricity during peak demand times, a practice known as "peak shaving." This compensation significantly influences project financing and revenues, presenting a tangible impact on the overall success of the venture, as highlighted by Georgina Arreola of Perch Energy.

 

Arreola emphasized, "Pairing community solar projects with storage enhances grid resiliency beyond the capabilities of local generation alone. This synergy prompts various markets to incentivize coupled storage solutions."

 

Leading the Community Solar market segment in 2023, Nexamp, a prominent solar contractor, echoes the sentiment. The incorporation of energy storage not only allows Nexamp to accept more subscribers in its Northeast and Midwest community solar facilities but also enhances the financial viability of the entire project.

 

Rob Ritchie, the energy storage director at Nexamp, explained, "While our offering to community solar subscribers remains consistent across markets, energy storage incentives contribute significantly to the project's financial landscape. The addition of storage opens up multiple revenue streams, enabling projects to move forward and unlock the full benefits of community solar."

 

The momentum towards integrating community solar with storage is gaining traction in various markets, with some states considering it a prerequisite. In California, a proposed net value billing tariff program advocates for community solar projects to be equipped with a minimum four-hour battery. This shift towards solar + storage synergy is not only financially advantageous for the projects but also carries substantial benefits for subscribers, according to Georgina Arreola of Perch Energy.

 

Arreola emphasized, "The addition of storage enhances the efficiency of community solar projects. At Perch, this increased efficiency translates to the ability to offer more subscriptions per project, providing a win-win scenario for both the company and its subscribers."

 

Rob Ritchie, Energy Storage Director at Nexamp, sheds light on the strategic use of energy storage to optimize solar generation. He points out that energy storage assets play a crucial role in redistributing solar generation from the middle of the day to peak afternoon periods during the summer. While this doesn't create additional kilowatt-hours, it significantly enhances the value of solar credits. Ritchie explains, "Shifting the solar generation timeline allows us to accumulate more value, enabling us to pass along greater benefits to subscribers in our community solar program."

 

The landscape of community solar and energy storage markets is evolving, presenting burgeoning opportunities for retrofit scenarios. Recent adjustments to storage incentive programs in states like Massachusetts and New York have spurred companies like Nexamp to reassess their current community solar projects. Rob Ritchie underscores Nexamp's serious commitment to the community aspect of its work. By integrating energy storage into existing projects, the company aims to enhance both financial viability and positive community impact, demonstrating its dedication to sustainable and community-centric solutions.

 

We view these communities as long-term partners," Ritchie emphasized. "Rather than scattering projects across different areas, we prioritize continuity by leveraging existing land parcels. Our focus is on fostering collaboration within the community, incorporating feedback from past projects to ensure ongoing alignment with local needs and values. By fostering these partnerships, we aim to sustain a positive fit for the community while advancing our shared goals.

 

Constantly vigilant for emerging market opportunities, we strive to enhance the value we offer to our customers and Nexamp. This proactive approach ensures that our existing portfolio remains dynamic, adapting to evolving market trends and customer needs," Ritchie highlighted.

 
 
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