What Record-Breaking Solar Means for Energy Storage

by Anna Gretz
February 15, 2017
Home Battery

We’ve been telling you all along that solar energy is on the rise in a huge way… but now it’s official. The Solar Energy Industries Association (or SEIA) released the numbers for solar power growth in the United States this week, and they’re HUGE.

At the end of 2015, the industry celebrated a record-breaking year, with 7,500 megawatts (MW) of solar installed nation wide. Well, this year’s numbers just blew 2015 right out of the water. 2016 saw an unprecedented 95% increase in solar photovoltaic installations, topping out at 14,626 MW.

Here’s a quick visual for you:

We’ll just let this graph sink in for second.

[We could stare at these numbers all day.]

Solar installations have risen across every category, including residential, non-residential, and especially utilities. This isn’t the end of the good news, though. Solar also accounted for almost 40 percent of new electrical capacity additions across ALL fuel types, earning it the top spot in 2016 for the first time, ever.

“What these numbers tell you is that the solar industry is a force to be reckoned with,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, the president and CEO of SEIA. We totally agree. A force to be reckoned with, and a resource that we need to store.

Having more solar online is fantastic, but it also presents its own challenges. One of them is pretty evident, right off the bat:

We’re generating more and more energy from the sun during the day… but solar power isn’t available at night.

What if it was?

What if there was a way to spread out the supply of solar over the span of 24 hours, instead of compressing it all into the daylight hours? What if solar wasn’t an intermittent power source?

If you’ve heard of energy storage, you know that this isn’t just a possibility, it’s a reality.

Many solar homeowners have already jumped onboard the energy storage revolution by having a home battery installed, and are reaping some pretty amazing benefits.

Nick Pfitzner installed a Tesla Powerwall home battery to store the energy generated by his solar panels last year, and he says he’s never going back. He loves the fact that he can store excess solar during the day so he can use it at night when demand is high (and so is the price of electricity.) He loves that his Powerwall setup came with tools to help him use energy more efficiently. But his favorite part about his new home battery? His new electricity bill.

Pfitzner shared that his energy bills used to be around $137 a month. Now? They come in under $14. [What would you do with an extra $125 a month??]

The word is spreading about the perks of home batteries, and since the price of batteries and installation is continuing to fall, the investment in a solar and an energy storage system is making a lot of sense to homeowners.

Making economic sense may be the key to the residential energy storage revolution really taking hold. The implications of a solar glut on the energy storage market is another perspective worth taking a look at. The rise of solar is certainly making news, but the excess supply of photovoltaics nationwide hasn’t yet appeared above the fold. The demand for solar cells was answered with a ramping up of solar production, resulting in more panels in the supply chain than ever before. We all know what happens when supply is high… prices drop. Many people think that the energy storage market is going to see some of the overflow from those with an overestimated solar budget.

Get ready for a stronger, more distributed energy grid.

The cost of solar is falling, and home battery prices are following suit. In Hawaii, where solar power penetration is higher than most anywhere else in the country, they are potentially on the brink of a home battery gold rush. This spring, SolarCity is planning to offer self-supply energy storage products, specifically in Hawaii. The state could be a great model for other states looking to up their distributed energy resources, like California.

Meanwhile, we’re waiting for the SEIA’s upcoming U.S. Solar Market Insight 2016 Year in Review, a document put out jointly with GTM Research, which will give us a great view of where solar is headed, and along with it, energy storage. From where we’re standing, the future of both industries looks bright.