Synergy Solar has over 20 years of experience installing solar. We want to continue to install solar in a responsible way. Long ago, we anticipated the utility changes and started installing Energy Storage Systems (ESS), aka. batteries, with all our solar installations with few exceptions. Here are some of the reasons ESS are so important.

As PG&E “strengthens” the grid we are finding there are more power outages in places that had been having less. To reduce wildfires and other safety issues due to downed power lines PG&E has been installing safety switches on the lines that quickly detect an issue such as a tree branch falling on a line. These switches will disconnect power much like the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacles in your kitchen or bathroom. This makes things safer but increases power outages. With many folks working remotely, having medical needs that require power or just like to keep the refrigerator on, ESS have become the best clean, quiet backup power source.

We are lucky to live in a place where a lot of households have adopted solar. Although this is good, many folks are out of the house midday when their solar is producing the most energy and lot of solar gets exported to the grid. This causes some issues for the grid, especially during high solar production times of the year. When you use an ESS to store and then self-consume your solar energy it not only reduces expensive, peak-priced electricity consumption but also reduces the peak strain on the grid. The following day your ESS will need to recharge from your solar, which reduces the strain on the grid that spinning the meter backwards with excess solar causes. We all know too well that the grid needs help, and having energy storage as part of your system is a great way to contribute. Helping the grid be more stable and reliable benefits everyone as we move into the energy future.

Under the new, Net Billing Tariff or NEM 3 (the current program that defines how you get paid back for the solar you export), solar without energy storage does not make financial sense in most situations. What changed is how the utility credits you to spin your meter backwards with your solar. Under the previous net energy metering or NEM programs these credits used to be as valuable as what you would have bought the energy for and now are worth a fraction of that. Under NEM 1 and NEM 2, for almost 30 years solar designers in California have designed systems based on a year’s worth of solar production and a year’s worth of household energy consumption. If a system was designed well, it would produce more energy than you used during the summer months and spin the meter backwards gaining credits and produce less than you use in the winter months when you would then use those credits. This could result in an annual true up bill that could be close to zero other than some minimal monthly fixed charges. Now those credits are not very valuable most of the year, so a good design minimizes how much you are spinning the meter backwards. If you have energy storage you can charge it with your excess solar during the day and discharge it to provide energy to your home during peak times and after the sun is not shining. This is programmed into the system and happens automatically, so you do not need to even think about it. There is a balance in sizing a system correctly and an ESS is not going to be sized to store all your excess summer solar energy to use during the winter months, so some solar exporting is inevitable.