Final fall, neighborhood selection aggregators serving three Northern California counties introduced plans to deploy hundreds of solar-battery techniques to supply backup energy to residents going through the specter of fire-prevention blackouts. Now they’ve picked Sunrun, the main U.S. rooftop photo voltaic installer and behind-the-meter battery aggregator, to get it executed. 

Below the deal, Sunrun will set up as much as 20 megawatts of solar-battery techniques for about 6,000 properties served by East Bay Group Vitality, Peninsula Clear Vitality and Silicon Valley Clear Vitality. 

The purpose is to supply weak prospects backup energy in the probably occasion that utility Pacific Gasoline & Electrical is pressured to close off energy to cut back danger of beginning a catastrophic wildfire, such because the Nov. 2018 Camp Fireplace that killed 86 folks, induced billions of of damages, and drove the utility out of business final yr. 

Sunrun and the CCAs are already enlisting prospects and need to deploy the techniques as quick as doable, with the goal of getting not less than some put in in time for this yr’s hearth season and the bulk executed in time for subsequent yr’s blackouts.

Sunrun’s batteries will assist ease peak demand

Final yr’s blackouts left thousands and thousands of residents with out energy, some for days at a time. PG&E, which exited chapter safety final month, has stated it might want to proceed these public security energy shutoffs for years to return. And this yr’s hearth season is anticipated to be extra harmful than final yr’s as a result of lowered precipitation and drier circumstances, making shutoff occasions probably extra probably this yr. 

That grim actuality is placing strain on PG&E and the communities it serves — together with the growing quantity served by CCAs — to seek out cost-effective backup energy choices to experience by means of outages. 

The contracts with Sunrun are designed to do this by providing a $1,000 low cost to prospects shopping for one in every of Sunrun’s Brightbox battery-solar techniques, and tapping the grid providers worth of the batteries to pay for the low cost, JP Ross, East Bay Group Vitality’s senior director of native growth, electrification and innovation, stated in an interview. 

“We’re paying Sunrun and the top buyer for the flexibility to make use of these batteries to handle our peak load,” he stated. Sunrun will combination 5 megawatts of capability to cut back EBCE’s peak demand forecast with the California Vitality Fee (CEC), in addition to serve system useful resource adequacy (RA) necessities set by the California Public Utilities Fee (CPUC). 

Bidding the techniques as RA will assist the CCAs scale back their reliance on the pure gas-fired energy vegetation that also present many of the state’s peaking energy wants. “We wish these batteries to be discharged throughout the highest value intervals, and that tends to be the identical instances as highest carbon” emissions,” Ross stated.

Sunrun’s contracts symbolize the residential portion of the 30 megawatts initially focused by the three CCAs and municipal utility Silicon Valley Energy of their November joint solicitation. The rest shall be introduced when SVP finalizes its plans and all 4 decide to a business storage vendor, Ross stated. 

Sunrun already searching for members in Bay Space

To assist their most weak prospects, the three CCAs have carved out a portion of their deployments for low-income and deprived communities. In EBCE’s case, not less than 20 % of its capability will go to low-income single-family and multi-family housing, Ross stated. 

The CPUC has directed tons of of thousands and thousands of  from the state’s Self-Era Incentive Program (SGIP) to cowl nearly the whole value of battery backup techniques for low-income and medically weak residents and demanding services in excessive fire-threat areas. That’s “a program that we’ll be targeted on” to decrease prices for these prospects, he stated. 

Sunrun is accountable for balancing CCAs’ grid providers wants with their prospects’ backup energy wants. The 5 megawatts of capability that Sunrun will present EBCE is smaller than the full battery capability it is going to be putting in, to make sure an ample provide of saved vitality to serve each functions. 

Sunrun is already searching for out prospects within the Bay Space to achieve its 6,000 residence goal, Nick Smallwood, Sunrun’s vice chairman of enterprise growth and grid providers, stated in an interview. Having the ability to faucet CCA information to establish prospects who stand to be most harmed by PSPS occasion, resembling those that misplaced energy throughout final yr’s outages, will pace up its outreach, he stated. 

In the meantime, Sunrun is tapping state packages like SGIP, or the SOMAH program that gives battery incentives for low-income multifamily housing, to cut back the associated fee for low-income residents, Smallwood stated. It’s additionally in search of present prospects so as to add to every CCA’s grid service capability, he added. 

A check case for behind-the-meter solar-storage grid resiliency 

Sunrun is within the midst of deploying solar-battery techniques for grid providers in a number of states, together with a 20-megawatt deployment in New England to supply capability beginning in 2022, and a contract to put in as much as 1,000 of its Brightbox batteries by 2024 to supply grid providers to utility Hawaiian Electrical. 

Final month it gained contracts with California utility Southern California Edison and New York utility Con Edison subsidiary Orange & Rockland, every of which can goal as much as 300 Brightbox-equipped properties to show their techniques over to utility management in change for credit or set up reductions. 

However this new deployment represents Sunrun’s largest aggregation to this point alongside such an aggressive timeline, and the primary to emphasise backup energy front-and-center. That would assist check the corporate’s long-running proposition that solar-storage techniques might develop into a central a part of California’s long-term grid resiliency targets. 

PG&E withdrew its plan to deploy tons of of megawatts of pure gas-fired turbines at substations earlier this yr amid opposition from CCAs, communities and environmental teams. As a stopgap measure, the utility has readied as much as 450 megawatts of cell diesel turbines for communities in excessive fire-threat areas. However the CPUC has ordered PG&E to provide you with alternate options to utilizing these polluting turbines as shortly as doable. 

Networks of solar-battery techniques might present a cleaner choice, and CCAs and photo voltaic and battery business teams have pressed for insurance policies that would combine them into broader utility efforts to mitigate the worst impacts of fire-prevention blackouts. 

Whereas there are questions on whether or not particular person solar-battery techniques will be relied on for backup energy throughout outages that final days, the 9.eight kilowatt-hour capability of a Brightbox battery can final for days so long as it’s in a position to recharge from its photo voltaic panels by day and is powering a lowered set of important hundreds, Smallwood stated. And in contrast to a centralized microgrid or emergency backup energy system, “we are able to truly influence households inside days of after we attain them.” 

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