Photovoltaic is seen as a clean energy source and due to state and federal tax credits not just financially feasible but a smart investment. But many homeowners that want photovoltaic, have been delayed, and in some cases, derailed by “area saturation” designations by the electric companies. Let’s explain.
Photovoltaic solar systems create energy using panels on rooftops. During the day, when the sun is out, the PV system provides the energy your home needs and is probably also creating more energy than you are using. This surplus energy is fed back to the electric company grid (called net metering) that is then credited to you. At night, when the sun goes down, you draw energy from the electric company’s grid. If the solar company that sold and installed the solar system did their calculations correctly, the energy created by your system would be just about the same as what you use, thus in the end you should have a net zero energy bill (other than the minimum the utility company charges to be hooked up to their grid) at the end of the month.
In this typical solar system set-up, you need to be hooked up to the grid of the electric company, otherwise at night, when there is no sun to create energy, you will be out of power. The problem is, many areas in Hawaii have been designated “saturated” by the utility companies and in order to get a PV system, they ask the homeowner to pay for an inter-connectivity study, which the utility company deems necessary to protect the grid from damaging power fluctuations.
For many, this added cost of paying for the study, along with the delays that would occur while waiting for results, puts a damper and hold on moving ahead to get a photovoltaic solar panel system. But a solution to this problem has started to make its way around. Home solar battery storage units are being touted as an alternative to being hooked up to the grid.
Major advances in solar battery storage technology, not to mention sharp cost reductions, have made this avenue much more realistic. While major questions still remain about the cost, the technology and the pace of adaptation of off-the-grid solar, it is significant that there is a possible alternative option moving forward.
The solar industry has long looked at battery storage technology as a kind of holy grail that could bring solar to the masses. But prices for battery storage have traditionally been too high, and the technology has been cumbersome, requiring extensive maintenance. Thus, very few people installed batteries. Affordable solar battery storage technology that can hold large amounts of energy from solar panels on a home or business would be a game changer. Battery storage allows customers to break free from the electric company’s limitations and go completely off the grid. Some of the other benefits are electricity during power outages, no power surges and peace of mind knowing you will always have electricity.
Though costs for home battery storage units still remain stubbornly high, a solar photovoltaic system in conjunction with a battery storage unit, coupled with tax credits, is still cheaper than buying electricity from the electric company. And along with being cleaner energy, as electricity prices move higher, they become an even greater deal financially.