The Case for Residential Energy Storage

by Anna Gretz
March 3, 2017
Home Battery

Utility-scale energy storage makes a lot of economic sense. Solar and energy storage growth rates have been released recently, and no one is surprised to see that utility-scale solar has skyrocketed. Utility companies care about taking advantage of economically smart energy options, especially those that will boost their consistent and reliable service delivery. No one is really arguing: utility-scale solar and energy storage make sense. The market is growing, and it’s going to continue to grow.

There’s less agreement, however, when residential energy storage enters into the conversation. When evaluated from the same economic standpoint, residential energy storage seems to slide out of focus while utility-scale projects take center stage. But that doesn’t mean that residential energy storage doesn’t make sense. It means that it’s being evaluated from the wrong perspective.

Homeowners care about having an economic advantage, of course, but that’s not all they care about. They also care about having control over their resources, and protection from shortages and outages. In short, homeowners are looking for a certain level of independence. That’s where residential energy storage comes in… and delivers.

Home Batteries Protect Homeowners from Rising Power Outages

Nationwide, power outages have become six times more frequent than they have in previous decades. Some homeowners have read about the growing vulnerabilities of the power grid, and decided to do something about it. Home batteries offer energy security in the face of a vulnerable power grid. If the grid cuts out for a few hours (in the case of bad weather, or rolling blackouts like those proposed in California), home battery owners don’t have to worry. Their home can still be powered by the energy stored by their home battery. For those who depend on electricity to power life-essential medical machinery, or for households that use electricity to heat or cool their homes during extreme weather, this sort of energy security can be a big deal.

Households equipped with solar panels and energy storage in the form of home batteries are protected from any utility company mishap, whether it be on a large or small scale. Home batteries allow households to power their own essential appliances like refrigerators, water pumps, and heating/cooling devices with stored electricity collected from their rooftop solar panels. The grid may be vulnerable, but individual households don’t have to be.

A Lifestyle of Independent Energy

High-profile companies, like Tesla, are leading a revolution that centers around a new lifestyle for energy consumers--one that stands for innovation, conviction, and audacity. This is why Tesla has developed a product line that extends beyond electric vehicles. CEO’s Elon Musk has envisioned a future in which there’s a Tesla in every garage, and solar on every roof… not to mention a Powerwall 2 to store generated solar, tying the package together. This is the kind of home, and lifestyle, Elon Musk wants for himself… and he’s confident that he’s not the only one. Musks’ ambition has driven him to push the envelope in almost every respect, from electric cars that you can summon to pick you up at your door, to high-capacity low-cost lithium batteries, to rooftop solar that actually is a rooftop. The lifestyle Tesla offers its customers mirrors Musk’s own innovative drive. Going all-in to the Tesla brand means breaking through traditional methods of using power, and hosting an energy revolution in your own home.

Some of Tesla’s customers are passionate about securing their own energy source. Some are passionate about moving forward into a smarter, more efficient energy future. Some are passionate about the environment. All are convicted that a change to the energy status quo is necessary, and imminent.

The growing popularity of the Tesla brand shows a growing movement of homeowners who are bold and creative in the way they generate and use energy, showing a clear vision that extends beyond economics. But here’s the plot twist: though utility-scale solar and energy storage tries to push residential home batteries to the side, there are valid arguments for the economic advantages of home batteries, on top of the power and independence they provide.

Future Proofing: The Superpowers of Residential Energy Storage

Solar alone won’t solve the problem of rising energy costs. The demand for energy later in the day, especially in California, is rising drastically (Don’t believe us? Google the “California Duck Curve.”) Unfortunately, that rise in energy demand is exactly when the power generated by solar panels drops off. This not only presents problems for utility companies, but problems for the pocketbooks of homeowners as well. Peak demand hours can come with hiked-up power prices, and there has been talk that these prices may extend to the “ramping up” hours as well (the hours leading up to peak demand times.)

Higher rates during times of greater demand exist to encourage homes and businesses to spread out their electricity use during the day, in order to keep grid electricity demand under control, and service more reliable. Staggering the times that you use high-powered equipment and appliances, instead of using them all at the same time, is one way to lower your electricity bill. Utility companies want you to spread out the power you’re using during the day so they don’t have huge spikes in electrical demand--something that the power grid is really struggling with.

This is when home batteries really give homeowners a leg up. Home battery owners can use stored energy (from rooftop solar, or straight from the grid) to power their household appliances, easily spreading out power demand throughout the day without having to change the schedule of their lives. Home batteries that are hooked up to solar panels also have the option of avoiding the hassle of demand charges all together by cutting ties with the power grid, and storing energy straight from the sun.

Many consumers have been taking a good look at their utility bills, and tracking this rise in rates and additional charges. Many have chosen to invest in a home battery in order to future-proof their home from rising costs and overwhelming bills. The government funding and tax credits available have also pushed some homeowners off the fence, and given them another reason to give home batteries a second look.

The case for residential energy storage may be different than the argument for utility-scale energy storage, but it’s legitimate, and powerful.