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The Rise of Solar-Storage Duos

2024-03-12

Community solar, a beacon of inclusivity in the energy landscape, is gaining momentum across the United States. This "solar for all" approach allows businesses and individuals to tap into locally generated solar power through electricity credits. As of mid-2023, the community solar market hit a substantial 6 GW milestone, spreading its reach to 41 states and Washington, D.C. However, the key to unlocking even more widespread adoption might lie in a simple addition – energy storage.

 

Integrating energy storage with community solar projects doesn't significantly alter the project's design or installation process. Still, it can be the game-changer that propels these solar initiatives forward. Georgina Arreola, VP of policy for community solar customer manager Perch Energy, highlights how storage enhances project economics through additional incentives from utilities and states.

 

Arreola explains, "Certain states offer compensation for releasing stored electricity during peak demand times (peak shaving). This compensation has a tangible impact on financing and revenues, making a significant difference." Beyond financial benefits, pairing community solar with storage contributes to enhanced grid resiliency, surpassing the impact of local generation alone. This synergy has prompted many markets to encourage the coupling of storage with additional incentives, paving the way for a more resilient and accessible energy future.

 

Securing the coveted No. 1 spot in the 2023 Top Solar Contractors List for the Community Solar segment, Nexamp, a leading solar contractor, reveals the strategic role of energy storage incentives. Nestled in the Northeast and Midwest, Nexamp's community solar facilities flourish, thanks to incentives enabling them to welcome more subscribers.

 

Rob Ritchie, Nexamp's Energy Storage Director, emphasizes the transformative impact of energy storage incentives. "Our community solar offerings remain consistent across markets, but energy storage revenues elevate the project's overall financial health, propelling it forward," says Ritchie. The addition of storage not only diversifies revenue streams but also unlocks the full potential of community solar benefits.

 

The trend toward making community solar paired with storage a necessity is gaining momentum. California, for instance, is considering a net value billing tariff program mandating a minimum four-hour battery for community solar projects. This move aligns with the growing recognition of the value storage brings to both projects and subscribers. The ripple effect of combining solar with storage extends beyond financial gains, offering a more resilient and rewarding energy experience for all involved.

 

Enhancing community solar projects with storage isn't just about efficiency; it's a game-changer for subscriber benefits. According to Perch, the efficiency boost translates to an increased number of subscriptions per project.

 

Rob Ritchie, Energy Storage Director at Nexamp, breaks it down further, likening it to maximizing the solar project's generation window. "Energy storage assets play a crucial role by shifting solar generation from midday to afternoon peak periods in the summer," Ritchie explains. This strategic shift amplifies the credits Nexamp receives, creating a surplus that can be generously passed on to subscribers via the community solar program.

 

While the addition of storage doesn't generate more kilowatt-hours, it strategically repositions the value of solar generation. This shift allows Nexamp to maximize the benefits and pass along enhanced value to the community solar subscribers. It's not just about efficiency; it's about optimizing the entire solar experience for the benefit of all involved.

 

In the ever-evolving landscape of community solar and energy storage, exciting opportunities emerge for retrofit solutions. Massachusetts and New York recently fine-tuned their storage incentive programs, prompting Nexamp to revisit its community solar portfolio. The goal: identifying where integrating energy storage could elevate both financial returns and community impact. According to Rob Ritchie, Nexamp's Energy Storage Director, community collaboration is at the heart of their approach.

 

"We view these communities as long-term partners," Ritchie affirms. Rather than scattering projects, Nexamp focuses on building upon existing relationships. This involves revisiting previous solar projects and assessing how the addition of energy storage aligns with community needs. Ritchie emphasizes the importance of ongoing collaboration, considering feedback received years ago. "How can we continue working together as a community, ensuring our projects align with local needs and preferences?" he poses.

 

The commitment to community partnership extends beyond the initial solar installation. Ritchie shares Nexamp's proactive stance in seeking new market opportunities. The aim is clear: to continually enhance the value offered to existing customers and fortify Nexamp's position in the ever-evolving solar landscape. It's not just about installations; it's about fostering lasting connections and creating solar solutions that stand the test of time.

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