Xcel Energy, Denver’s electric utility, has been given permission by State regulators to test the integration of utility scale battery systems with the grid.
This energy storage test, also utilizing solar power, is part of the Innovation Clean Technology program. The utility requested permission to invest $9.1 million which was given final approval by The Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
The testing is taking place at two locations – one in the Stapleton neighborhood and the other at the Panasonic complex.
Xcel has promised to make available all information concerning milestones and associated costs of the projects to the PUC and the general public.
The Panasonic test site includes a utility-scale solar power system and a large battery closer to the airport. This project can act as a microgrid – providing backup power and delivering extra energy to the regional grid.
Six battery systems will be installed at customers’ homes who have already gone solar at the other test project in Stapleton.
Xcel has also installed another six batteries on their feeder powerline to handle excess electricity from solar homeowners nearby.
These energy storage pilot programs in Denver are vital in testing not only the capabilities of current battery technologies but also to be prepared for the future growth of solar power.
As Xcel and power companies across the country continue to experiment with the integration of solar power and energy storage systems, we’ll also begin to witness the private sector to start offering solutions as well.
In fact, the energy storage market has grown considerably in the past year. According to Greentech Media, the U.S. energy storage market grew 243 percent from 2014 to 2015. The market is predicted to grow many times more by 2020.
What does this mean to the average homeowner who has gone solar or is thinking about it?
It means that net metering issues will disappear in the coming years. Solar customers in some states currently do not get much compensation for their excess solar power. Some utilities have managed to be able to pay far less than the retail rate for homeowners’ solar power.
Once homeowners begin adding energy storage systems to work in conjunction with their solar panel systems, they’ll be able to keep and use all of the electricity that their systems produce. They will no longer be at the mercy of what their utilities want to compensate them for their solar energy.
There are surely many people who have been “on the fence” about going solar because of the very contentious net metering debates. Readily available affordable energy storage solutions will massively change the solar landscape and convince all of those people to finally invest in their own solar panel systems. This will create a situation in which people are essentially off-grid, utilizing the grid as a type of emergency back up.
As far as costs are concerned, we’ve already seen a very high percentage of the potential reduction in the cost of solar already happen. Now all we need is to see the cost of energy storage to drop in the coming years. It’s just a matter of when (a few short years), not if this happens.
So kudos to Xcel Energy for embracing solar and energy storage technologies.