Solar batteries are all the rage lately, and homeowners with and without solar are looking to them as a way to store extra power created by solar. While the excitement about batteries seems to be following the recent rolling blackouts implemented by California utilities, there are many benefits to solar batteries that homeowners in San Diego should be aware of. Let’s look at 4 of those reasons, so you can see just how beneficial installing a solar battery can be to San Diego homeowners.
1. Offset Time-of-Use Charges
In SDG&E, Net Metering has always been the billing system that homeowners are entered into once they install solar. The way Net Metering worked originally, for those that don’t know, is that during the day, when the solar was producing more power than the home was using, the excess power was sold back to SDG&E. At night, when the solar was not producing power, the home pulled power back from the grid, utilizing those credits earned during the day to purchase the power back from SDG&E. This crediting and buying back system allowed solar homeowners to “zero out” their electric bill, an incentive which was attractive enough to allow the solar industry to get its footing and skyrocket in the San Diego area.
Over time, Net Metering rules were changed so that the value of the electricity changed depending on when it was used, also known as “time of use” billing.
The concept behind Time-of-Use charges is that electricity costs more or less based on what time of day it is being used. According to SDG&E, this is based on demand at different times of day, so when more people are using more power, the power becomes more expensive and vice versa. This plays out in the following way: during the day, when everyone is at work or out doing things, the general population is using less power – in the Time-of-Use model, this is referred to as “Off-Peak”. That’s when power is less expensive, because there is less demand. Come 4pm, to around 9pm, when everyone is getting home, cooking dinner, watching TV and using the computer, electricity demand goes up, and thus, so does the price of electricity. As the night goes on, prices go back down, until they are again “Off-peak” at night.
As a result of these TOU charges, solar power produced from 6am – 4pm was worth a little less, and after 4pm (when solar output goes down) electricity prices went up quite a bit. There are ways around this, for example by adding more panels to create more credits, but in general it did reduce the value of solar power a bit in San Diego.
In comes solar batteries. With solar batteries, solar homeowners can store the extra power created during the day, and use it later at night when electricity prices are higher under Time-of-Use. So instead of selling the extra power during the day for a lower valued credit, that power is stored to be used when you would be buying the expensive On-peak power. This allows the solar homeowner to do an offset on their own. So installing a solar battery can help you get around Time-of-Use charges, keeping your power when it’s cheap to be used when it’s expensive.
2. Protection Against Blackouts / Outages
Nothing has sparked interest in solar battery storage like the recent planned power outages in California. It all started with the Northern California utility PG&E being blamed and sued for the large “Camp Fire” that killed 86 people in 2018. The claims were that PG&E had failed to maintain power lines and wires, and that those power lines were responsible for the deadliest fire in CA history. As a result of these lawsuits, which ended up with the utility dealing with an estimated $30 billion in liabilities, PG&E filed for bankruptcy this year, marking the largest utility bankruptcy case in US history.
As a result of this massive lawsuit, and to remove any liability, PG&E implemented what they referred to as “public safety planned power shutoffs” this year when the fire danger was rated at high levels. Essentially what this means is that, when Santa Ana winds were high across California recently, conditions which are known to be highly susceptible to fires, PG&E shut down power to around 2 million of their customers to prevent potential fires caused by downed power lines. This was a highly controversial decision, but it was done essentially to protect themselves from further lawsuits.
SDG&E, seeing what PG&E went through with their lawsuits, followed suit with their own public safety planned power shut offs this year. On October 29, 2019, SDG&E announced that, in lieu of Santa Ana winds 41,000 customers would potentially lose power over the next few days. For many homeowners this announcement was completely unexpected and out of the blue, so needless to say, panic ensued in many areas.
So many homeowners have tried to figure out ways to protect themselves from these unexpected blackouts. Of course there are generators, but the more economical and environmentally friendly option is to install solar + battery storage. That way, no matter what happens with SDG&E, as long as there’s Sun, which typically there is on those high fire-risk days, you’ll be able to keep the power on. During the day, when the solar is producing, your power will be kept on from that, all the while charging the battery for backup power at night. Your appliances, your computer, your medical equipment will stay when you really need them, and you’ll save money on your power bills for years to come.