The old saying “all politics is local” can apply to the U.S. solar market, diced and sliced into state, utility and local markets with a relatively thin federal overlay. This balkanization will likely continue, so addressing solar solutions will need to identify market segment and niche opportunities. A particularly vexing market segment is commercial PV. Commercial solar has tended to fall behind utility-scale and even residential markets, too small for economy of scale against utility systems, and too complex and competing against lower electricity rates versus residential systems. Another challenge is the demand capacity charges levied on commercial accounts, of which PV alone may be ineffective to address.
The entry of commercial electric energy storage offers a solution to market expansion, but systematic models pinpointing demand charges are just now appearing on the scene. One such study by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Solar + Storage Synergies For Managing Commercial-Customer Demand Charges, is part of a suite of market segment studies offered by the national labs.
The report looks at the potential synergies of PV and energy storage that would be a benefit multiplier of the two technologies and not an either/or choice. The study looks at market segments and niches across the spectrum. The modeling is nationwide, in fifteen locations from Seattle to Baltimore, with interior U.S. locations like Butte, Montana, Duluth, Minnesota and Chicago. Besides locations, fifteen types of commercial buildings are modeled, from a small office to a quick service restaurant to a hospital are modeled. PV and energy storage systems are segmented in 10% increments from zero to 100% of consumption for PV and capacity for energy storage. The goal is optimization of demand charge reductions, with energy storage systems rated at battery capacity in kilowatt-hours at three times the capacity in kW being the standard system capability. All told, 22,500 combinations of solar and storage systems, locations and building types that are modeled.
As stated, the focus is on reduction of demand charges, which can run up to 25% of a commercial customer’s electric bill. The goal is to use the two technologies in away that not only optimizes savings, but results in a wider performance range that can help utility profiles of supply and demand. A webinar further explaining this research will be offered on November 8th, at 9 AM Pacific time, noon Eastern time.