How Adding Battery Storage to Solar PV Systems Can Benefit Low-Income Housing Owners and Tenants

By August 8, 2016civic, GOVERNMENT, solar
solar pv systems

A new report titled “Closing the California Clean Energy Divide” by the California Housing Partnership, the Center for Sustainable Energy, and the Clean Energy Group shows adding battery storage to an existing solar photovoltaic (PV) system could virtually eliminate electricity bill costs for low-income, multifamily property owners and their tenants in California.

In fact, Seth Mullendore, a program manager at Clean Energy Group, told Solar Industry magazine that, “Our analysis, which is based on data from real buildings, shows that adding battery storage to a solar PV system installed on an affordable housing property in Southern California could increase the annual savings on a property owner’s electricity bill to 99 percent, which is nearly double the savings of what a solar-alone system can provide.”

The new report also cites a real-life example where, “The addition of a $112,100 battery storage system to a $385,000 solar installation increased savings from $15,000 per year to $27,900, an 85 percent increase in savings for only a 29 percent increase in cost.”

The Value of Adding Battery Storage to Solar PV Systems

In addition to saving money, here are three more major benefits for property owners who pair battery storage and solar PV systems.

  1. Having more control over the solar energy that they produce at a property, as well as minimize or completely eliminate the use of grid electricity during peak hours, thereby shielding them from higher charges during those times. This is especially important for property owners who have large buildings with lighted parking lots, elevators, and other high electricity usage areas, where electric bills can really add up. (After all, energy usage is one of the few things property owners can actually control to reduce their annual operating costs.)
  2. Being able to pass the substantial cost savings on to low-income tenants in the form of either a lower electricity bill or no electricity bill. As outlined in the report, “Possible scenarios include a greater share of solar generation being allocated to offset tenant electricity usage, a shared savings model where tenants are allocated a portion of demand charge savings, or applying some of the expected savings to cover the additional cost of making a building more power resilient during power outages.”
  3. Shorten the amount of time it takes to recoup their initial investment in a solar power installation by more than three years under certain circumstances.

Making the Case for Solar Energy Storage

The new report is the first in a series of three reports planned to make the case for solar energy storage in low-income housing in California. The report’s findings are especially important given the recent (2015) passage of the California Assembly Bill 693, which established the Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs program and pledged up to $1 billion in funding over the next 10 years to create incentives for installing solar PV systems at affordable housing properties.

The authors of the report claim not only would including energy storage in the Solar Roofs program offer clear economic benefits under the current regulatory framework, but it could also help shield low-income housing tenants (and owners) from the financial risks of any future framework changes.

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