Roth Capital Partners has released a new research note on conclusions made and predictions about the solar industry, based off of observations made at Solar Power International 2019 (SPI). While the note is chiefly concerned with industry-wide solar stock performance, one bit of information stood out: Roth expects the U.S. residential solar market to exceed anticipated growth, increasing 25% year-over-year in both 2019 and 2020.
What’s more, is that while these projections are a reflection of the ever-improving economics of residential solar, they are just as much a telling sign of growing distrust in the utilities that have so long been the only source of household electricity.
“We believe this trend of ratepayers becoming increasingly more disgruntled with their utility will clearly benefit RUN, NOVA, VSLR, SEDG, ENPH, as well, especially as new storage offerings come online next year,” noted Roth.
Self-generation is a freedom that grows in relevance as prices and trust in utilities fall and one must look no further than California to see this. First come the economics of a residential solar + storage installation. Between the Investment Tax Credit, falling module prices, ever-decreasing prices for lithium-ion batteries and the recently facelift given to the Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), it has never been cheaper to become grid-independent, at least for isolated periods. Homeowners who are customers of either Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison, SoCalGas, or San Diego Gas & Electric, under SGIP, are eligible for an incentive as high as $400 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) when adding a home battery.
To be clear, this isn’t about going off the grid entirely, but more about owning a semi-independent personal microgrid that can provide electricity needed when the utilities don’t.
Outside of financing, it’s the utilities themselves giving customers the biggest reason to self-generate: inconsistency and negligence. First and foremost in the examples of negligence are the wildfires. There are a number of lawsuits alleging that PG&E did not de-energize power lines when it should have during high winds, and that these power lines played a role in multiple catastrophic wildfires. Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) have also faced lawsuits over their roles in fires in California, with SDG&E paying a massive $2.4 billion to settle 2,000 lawsuits.
In response, California regulators have proposed redirecting funds from the SGIP equity budget to establish a new equity resiliency budget for low-income, high-fire-risk citizens.
The stage is being set more and more each day that the future of safe, reliable energy, especially in areas where natural disasters are common is distributed generation. It’s not just in California either, the idea of microgrids founded upon distributed solar + storage are gaining momentum in Hawaii and Puerto Rico in order to minimize damage during hurricane recovery efforts.
And this is where you, the wonderful readers of pv magazine USA come in. If any readers have installed a home solar + storage system for use when the power goes out, reach out! We want to hear from you: when you switched, where you live and why you decided to self-generate. Leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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It’s not just California that has an unreliable grid. In South Florida, which received a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma, maybe Cat 1 winds at most, many parts were without power for days. Wires simply fell off poles or parted with wind alone. When you’re without power for a week in August in South Florida because of tropical storm force winds, you start to think about a reliable backup system.
Our home in Rocklin, CA was not affected by last week’s PG&E”s PSPS, but it did finally get us off the fence on making provisions for possible future service interruptions. Our eight year experience with a 3 kW PV installation just broke even, having been sized to offset Tier 3 & 4 use. Thirty months ago I began looking at a Powerwall 2 because of concern with grid reliability. The per-kWh use cost of that Tesla lowest-cost lithium battery (amortized without SGIP credit) equals the Tier 1 energy price, so it is still uneconomic for energy arbitrage. But the game changed after the Camp Fire: energy reliability is much less assured and has become a household responsibility for those that can afford to address it. For those aspiring to cool their homes in our area $20,000 for batteries and a 7 to 10 kW PV array are needed. For minimum load service of 2 to 3 peak kW (refrigerator, freezer, microwave) options are a gas generator or a small battery like the Inergy Atlas with 300-500 W dedicated PV. Last week we ordered the Inergy system. While I’m sure solar-integrated home batteries will boom, prices must come down considerably for the middle class to adopt them in large numbers.
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