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4 Observations in the ‘Solar Plus Storage’ Market

There’s no doubt that “energy storage” is now a common buzzword associated with solar and renewables. Just from our customers alone, storage seems top of mind. This growing curiosity has inspired us to recently explore the future of the storage industry in Massachusetts.

Get Tesla Powerwall 2 with RevoluSun Massachusetts

Energy storage, often referred to as a battery system, is essential in making your home a powerhouse. Storage systems like Tesla Powerwall 2 protect your home from power outages, allows you to store your solar energy and/or take energy from the grid when rates are the lowest, and helps create a reliable grid system. Storage protects both you and your community. As a Certified Tesla Powerwall Installer, we’ve deployed several Powerwalls to Hawaii, Massachusetts, and, now as of recently, Idaho.

Powerwall is a rechargeable battery that stores electricity during the day when solar is plentiful or when grid electricity is inexpensive and delivers clean, reliable electricity when the sun isn’t shining or during a grid outage.

Because the U.S. storage market is expected to grow 12 times the size of the 2016 market, the topic has also been of high interest to other industry experts. Kelly Pickerel, Editor in Chief of Solar Power World, asked RevoluSun for our take on how solar installers are embracing storage and its market potential. Pickerel interviewed Brian Sadler, RevoluSun’s Vice President of Business & Project Development. Afterwards, we were able to reflect on our gleaned impressions of the emerging storage market and its quick evolution. Our impressions include changes to how storage is perceived, its market demand, and increased curiosity about going off the grid.

4 Impressions of the Solar + Storage Market

1. Storage is now seen as practical rather than just a luxury

RevoluSun Smart Home Tesla Powerwall
Powerwall installed by RevoluSun Smart Home.

Sadler explained that RevoluSun started receiving inquiries about Tesla Powerwall because it was seen as the newest toy for early adopters. Because energy storage has several practical applications, its market demographic has evolved quickly. Beyond the early adopters, most of our storage customers are drawn to both adding resiliency to their homes and engaging in a “power switch” between themselves and their utility companies. 

Storage is also becoming attractive to consumers in less solar-savvy states without strong net metering policies. Net metering occurs when a solar system produces excess energy not used in the home. The excess energy is automatically sent to the grid to be used by other grid-tied homes.

Happy RevoluSun Idaho customers, Jean and Sheldon B., added storage to their home to avoid changes in Idaho solar policy. “We wanted to get through any power outages and make sure we are prepared for any changes to the Net Metering laws in Idaho. With our Tesla batteries, we can use our solar on site and won’t be affected by future regulations. We felt it was important to be in the vanguard in solar power. This is really the future.”

Tesla Powerwall happy customers
Jean and Sheldon pictured with Powerwall in their Idaho home.


2. Local power outages spur battery demand

Tesla Powerwall protects your home or business from power outages

In the article, Sadler estimated that close to 50% of RevoluSun’s solar installations this year will include storage. More people are adding energy storage to their homes now than ever before. This will continue to rise due to intense weather-related incidents propelled by climate change, increased demand for solar, and the appeal of decreasing their dependence on their utility company or even going off the grid.

Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents who depend on an outdated grid lose power every year. Energy storage enables homeowners to control their energy supply sustainably when their utility grid is down.

3. “Energy independence” is appealing to homeowners

Solar and storage allow you to be energy independent from your utility. This means that, when you pair your solar system with storage, you will not have to rely on the grid for power when solar energy is less available. Also, in times when the utility’s grid is down, your home will still have a source of power.

The term “off the grid” refers to living and powering your home without reliance on your utility for power. Off-grid homes require alternative power options like solar energy and energy storage like Powerwall.

Tesla Powerwall energy storage off the grid

I want solar and storage. Should I go off the grid?

The economics of solar make much more sense when a solar customer is still connected to their utility company. This means that you should not go off the grid if your main motivations for going solar are the financial benefits.

Technically, during a power outage, solar and non-solar customers are off the grid simply because the grid is down. However, in all other cases, the connection to a utility company enables communication between your home’s meter and the grid. In order to receive financial compensation for your energy, you must be connected to the grid. This allows your home to be a “distributed generation site,” according to Sadler. Plus, you can always use the grid as your backup, especially if you do not have energy storage.

4. Some states now incentivize energy storage

Pioneering Minds Energy storage Massachusetts

In June 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) announced a statewide goal of 200 megawatt-hours worth of storage by 2020. The plan, called The Energy Storage Initiative, aims to make the state a national leader in the storage market with a $10 million commitment to support Massachusetts energy storage companies and create policy to foster storage deployment.

Massachusetts is just the third state to incentivize storage. Other states with energy storage initiatives include, but are not limited to, Nevada, Maryland, California, and Oregon.

If you purchased a solar system and/or battery and you are connected to a utility company in most areas of Massachusetts, you are eligible for federal, state, and local financial incentives. These incentives include:

Federal incentive: Federal Income Tax Credit (ITC)

The Federal Income Tax Credit (ITC), also referred to as the solar investment tax credit,  is one of the most important initiatives involved in the expansion of solar nationwide. The ITC is a 30% tax credit on the full cost of installing a solar and/or battery system on a residential or commercial property.

In order for your battery to be eligible for the tax credit, your storage system needs to be charged by clean energy. If you purchased solar in the past and wanted to add storage now, you would be eligible for the tax credit. Storage without a renewable energy source is not currently incentivized.

However, 2019 is the last year that homeowners can take advantage of the 30% tax credit. To be guaranteed full tax credit, it is imperative for customers to take advantage of the current federal incentive program.

State incentives: The SMART Program and tax credit

The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program is an incentive program that offers a fixed compensation rate for the energy your solar system produces so that the lifetime revenue for your solar energy will be known from the start. Additionally, SMART offers incentives for battery storage. Combined with the 30% tax credit, the incentive for solar plus storage helps pay a significant portion of the cost.

The program has a declining block structure so that as each block fills up, the incentives and capacity of each block decrease. For example, Block 1 under SMART allows solar customers to take advantage of 100-percent of the SMART incentive available and is capped at 200 megawatts worth of solar installations. However, after that block fills up, incentives and capacity of the following blocks decline. he longer you wait to go solar or add storage, the less money you save and earn.

Additionally, the state provides a personal tax credit of 15% of your total system cost, up to $1,000, when a Massachusetts resident purchases a solar system.

Local incentive: Net Metering

When a solar system overproduces energy, it sends the excess energy back to the grid through a process called net metering. Net metering allows you to generate savings on your electric bill for every excess kilowatt-hour you produce each month.

Your solar system is expected to overproduce during the summer months and underproduce during the winter months. However, this doesn’t mean that your electric bill in the winter will be high. Net metering credits roll over each month, allowing your solar energy produced in June to be used in November. Net metering works like rollover minutes on your phone bill. If you have 100 minutes each month and only use 60 minutes in March, then those unused 40 minutes will roll over in April, giving you 140 minutes to use. This enables you to pay a reduced electric bill (or none at all) even during the times when your system produces less energy.

Hear from our Powerwall customer

Tesla Powerwall 2 customer testimony review happy customer Massachusetts

Tom, one of our Powerwall customers, is delighted about the functionality of his new energy storage system. Powerwall stores excess solar energy produced during the day to use at night when his system isn’t producing energy. Powerwall also automatically guards Tom’s energy supply when a storm is coming. Whether the grid goes down for hours or just a few minutes, Powerwall maintains power in Tom’s home. No matter the weather or event, Powerwall will protect his home for years to come.

Get Energy Storage from RevoluSun

Powerwall is the top energy storage system on the market due to its smart features and safe design. If you are considering going solar or if you already have solar, adding energy storage is a good next step. By acting soon, you can still claim the generous state and federal incentives for installing a solar and a battery. Let us help you achieve your home energy goals by filling out this form.

How to Achieve Carbon Neutrality in Massachusetts

Achieving Carbon Neutrality in Massachusetts through renewable energy and electrification

Going Carbon Neutral Through Electrification

Massachusetts has been recognized as the most energy efficient state, 6 years running. Boston has been the most energy-efficient city in the country for 8 years now.

But how can Massachusetts improve or keep its title? Massachusetts is unique for a variety of reasons, but one thing that makes us stand out is that our officials, policymakers, and citizens are acutely aware with environmental issues and take steps to make the state greener. Massachusetts has been able to begin reducing their carbon footprint in an attempt to lessen the effects of climate change; effects such as sea level rise, ozone depletion, and global temperatures rising.

Climate-Forward Policy

The United States is among 184 total parties that signed the Paris Climate agreement on April 22, 2016. The Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise, below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase, even further, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement intends to strengthen countries’ abilities to address the impacts of climate change.  The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) released a report addressing the impact of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and related global GHG emissions pathways, in hopes to strengthen the global response to climate change, sustainable development, and the eradication of poverty.

Many U.S. states have their own goals to combat environmental issues through carbon neutrality. Carbon neutral(ity) refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference, commonly referred to as having a net zero carbon footprint.

Carbon Pricing

A carbon price is a cost applied to carbon emissions (or pollution) to incentivize people to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas they emit into the atmosphere. Economists widely agree that introducing a carbon price is the single most effective way for countries to reduce their emissions.

Massachusetts could become the first state to put a price on carbon. In June 2018, the Massachusetts State Senate made history today by passing landmark carbon pricing legislation.The bill (S.2545- An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future) includes a key carbon pricing provision that allows Massachusetts to regain state leadership on climate policy by designing and implementing a carbon pricing mechanism. Putting a price on carbon got a big boost when National Grid, one of New England’s largest utilities, called for putting an economy-wide price on carbon and rapid electrification of the transportation sector. The legislation’s next step is in the House, where we hope to continue momentum for the legislation and for carbon pricing.

The Commonwealth has an ambitious goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. However, this goal cannot be achieved by 2050 if we continue to build with natural gas or other fossil fuels. The only way we can get there is if we transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. As Boston’s skyline rises and population increases, the choices we make over the next few years on how we’re going to fuel the city’s energy future, and the buildings we construct or retrofit today will have profound effects.

Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change

Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, thus creating a warming effect, are called greenhouse gases (or GHG). Greenhouse gas emissions from human-caused activities are known throughout the scientific community to lead to climate change. There are four types of GHGs consisting of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases.

Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste, trees and wood products, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions. Carbon can be sequestered (or removed) from the atmosphere when it is absorbed by plants.

Methane is mainly emitted during the production and transportation of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil). The largest difference between fossil fuels and renewable energy (besides that fact that renewables are indeed renewable) is the methane emitted. Methane does not linger in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, but its effects are far more devastating due to the efficiency in which methane absorbs heat. Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Approximately 25% of manmade global warming effects are due to methane emissions. Even though it occurs in lower concentrations than carbon dioxide, it produces 21 times as much warming as CO2. Methane emissions can also come from livestock, other agricultural practices and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.

Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste. Fluorinated gases, such as hydrofluorocarbons that are used in air conditioning, are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases typically emitted from industrial processes.

Electrifying our energy supply

Industry experts have dabbled with the idea of electrification or the transitioning energy supplies to electricity. Electricity is basically a no-loss energy; it converts energy into useful power without losses and without pollution. The use of electricity could decarbonize the world.

Over the last few years, there has been an increase in the electrification of everyday transportation, specifically electric vehicles. Researchers have broken down the potential for electrification into many different sectors but transportation starts with the smallest electricity share, which would make it the easiest sector to begin with. Transportation accounts for nearly 30 percent of U.S. primary energy consumption. Beyond transportation, the building sector can take steps to reduce their carbon emissions by making the switch to electricity fueled by electromechanical generators, solar photovoltaics, or geothermal.

So, what are the next steps? Reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 starts with electrification of our buildings and transportation systems. Then, we can begin powering that electricity with renewable energy sources, such as solar.

Step 1. Build Green and Electrify Buildings

Green Building Renewable Energy LEED

Sustainable building starts with the design of the building to take into account the natural resources and energy available at the site. It may mean positioning the structure to make the most of the sunlight available or implementing natural ventilation to reduce the need for energy-intensive heating and cooling systems. Sustainable construction methods and materials will help reduce the demand for fossil fuels.

Utilities electricity

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) ranks buildings using the LEED guidelines to stimulate/encourage/promote “sustainable construction, maintenance, and operation” across the country. The major pillars of LEED certification are a decrease in greenhouse gases, improved air quality, a transition to new energy sources, and smart, forward-thinking building practices. This all reduces the negative effects on human health while being conscious of the environment. Massachusetts is ranked #1 for LEED Green Building Per Capita. The goal of carbon neutrality could be reached close to 2050 if we can keep the momentum going with green buildings and electrifying them.

Local households making the switch to electricity

Claire and Jan Galkowski of Westwood, MA installed 29 SunPower 345-watt modules, creating a 10.0kW PV system, with 19 facing South-Southwest, 5 facing East-Southeast, and 5 facing West-Northwest. Although these directions are not the most favorable, with the great efficiency of these panels, they made it work. In an effort to reduce even more fossil fuel usage, Jan and Claire decided to convert their hot water system, heating and cooling system, and many major energy-consuming technologies to electric sources. The Galkowskis also purchased a Chevy Volt that also uses clean energy generated from their home. These changes allow them to take even greater advantage of clean, renewable power.

RevoluSun Solar Installation in Westwood, MA

Three years later, the Galkowskis decided to add to their solar system. They ended up installing another 10 Sunpower 345 panels to create a 39 panel, 13.46kW system. Nine of these are again East-Southeast, and 1 is West-Northwest. Even though their home (and car) ran entirely on electricity, their bill was only $2 per month. Also, the Galkowskis earn an extra $100 per month in SRECs with the additional panels. The Galkowskis are pioneering efforts to reduce GHG emissions in Massachusetts.

Step 2. Electrify Transportation

Transportation is responsible for about 25 percent of our emissions. This means that we have to look at changing the way we commute and how we fuel our vehicles.

When possible, walk or ride your bike to completely eliminate your carbon emissions associated with transportation. Carpooling options, like Uber or Lyft, and public transportation can greatly reduce CO2 emissions. Ridesharing services, such as Uber, have started incentive programs that reward drivers of electric vehicles. Uber launched a program to provide cash incentives to drivers who use electric vehicles (or EVs) with the goal of facilitating at least 5 million trips over 12 months. Uber is also adding features to its app for drivers who specifically use these types of vehicles, and it’s partnering with nonprofits and UC-Davis researchers to discover new ways Uber and local governments can encourage EV adoption.

For those who are committed to sustainability, make the switch to a fuel-efficient vehicle, such as a hybrid or electric vehicle to further reduce your environmental impact. Where is the electricity coming from? Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy to power your EVs will reduce carbon emissions from vehicles. Simple changes like avoiding speeding and unnecessary acceleration can reduce gas mileage by up to 33%, subsequently reducing carbon emissions.

Additional ways to travel cleaner

Complete Streets policies in Massachusetts lead the state towards sustainability

Complete Streets is a transportation policy that mandates streets to be designed, planned, maintained, and operated to enable safety, convenience, comfort, and accessibility to all travelers, regardless of the mode of transportation. Complete Streets promotes and encourages pedestrian and bike-friendly roadways. Establishing a complete streets policy demonstrates a community’s commitment to improving community livability by focusing on safety and mobility, sustainability, and economic development. Massachusetts Department of Transportation is taking action to encourage more Complete Street projects across the state.

Many towns in Massachusetts have been recognized for their efforts in integrating Complete Street plans into their short-term agendas. Smart Growth America recognized Stoneham, MA as National Complete Street Champion. Governor Charlie Baker & Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito awarded the city of Cambridge $400,000 to fund a Complete Street program and help the city get started on achieving their sustainability goals.

Step 3. Embrace Renewables

Solar Energy Renewables

Approximately 75 percent of our emissions in 2018 come from energy use in buildings, compared to 68 percent in 2017.

The University of California schools are aiming to be the first carbon-neutral school system by 2025. Over the last year, UC campuses made big strides toward zero-emission vehicles. In the last year, UC Irvine converted its entire bus fleet to electric. Campuses also cut water use, saving enough water to fill 125 Olympic-size swimming pools. Complete electrification will mean converting all university buildings and facilities to electricity powered by solar, wind and other renewable sources, a conversion that is already underway at some campuses.

University of California Santa Barbara leads in solar energy development

All 10 University of California campuses now have on-site solar power, and more progress is in the works. UC has purchased 80 megawatts (MW) of off-campus solar — enough to supply 14 percent of total electricity use. Campuses have also installed nearly 80 on-site solar photovoltaic systems, an additional 13 MW of on-site solar is in development. Solar panels will supply the universities with carbon-free energy.

States Embrace Renewables

California has become the first state in the nation to require solar panels on new homes, starting in 2020. Watertown, located just outside of Boston, has recently become the first town in Massachusetts and New England to require solar panels on new commercial construction. The town mandated renovations of existing buildings that are more than 10,000 square feet to have solar collectors. Parking garages will also require solar installations.

Watertown’s Energy Manager, Ed Lewis, believes the new ordinance will help to reduce pollution, decrease the town’s carbon footprint, and drive local business. Local companies typically install the solar panels, so the mandate will help provide local jobs. New renewable energy generation will offset the money previously spent on non-renewable energy sources. Energy for Massachusetts customers typically comes from outside of New England. With this new ordinance, the money that normally leaves New England will now stay in the local economy.

Solar is easily the most popular energy source among Americans. Mandating solar is an idea most Americans support for their state. A poll released by Morning Consult, reveals that approximately 63% of Americans supported requiring solar in residential construction.

Step 4. Make small changes in your home

6 Ways of Going Green and Reducing Your Electric Bill

The idea of electrifying your home, business and transportation can seem daunting. There are plenty of smaller changes you can make in your home that will reduce your energy use. Here are other ways to save money and energy.

Turn off electronics when they aren’t in use. About 25% of all residential energy usage comes from appliances that are plugged in when not in use. Even when your coffee pot isn’t brewing coffee or your laptop charger isn’t charging your device, they are still using energy. To make unplugging easier, try using power strips that you can switch off.

Utilize your blinds. It’s surprising how much opening and closing your blinds can impact the temperature of your home. In the summer, close your blinds during the day to limit sunlight heating up your home. In the winter, keep them open.

Wash your clothes in cold water. 90% of the energy usage of laundry machines goes towards heating up water when many clothes can be washed in cold water. Making this switch could save $40 each year, and washing only full loads saves 3,400 gallons of water annually.

Use low-flow showerheads. A low-flow showerhead uses 2.5 gallons-per-minute or less. A ten-minute shower saves you 25 gallons of water compared to a full bathtub. This saves you up to $145 each year in utility costs.

Switch to efficient light bulbs. Reduce energy use by 30% to 80% with energy-efficient bulbs such as halogen incandescents, CFLs and LEDs.

Clean or change filters regularly. Having dirty filters in your AC, heating unit, dryer, or other appliances reduces their energy efficiency and effectiveness.

Your Home or Business’s Impact

Since carbon neutrality is an ambitious goal, there will have to be changes made both locally and nationally. Massachusetts has a great start in legislature and state politics to combat climate change now through 2050. Electrification of buildings and transportation, supported by renewable energy sources, would be a huge leap towards climate change mitigation.

Your decision to go solar and electrify your home or business can have a huge impact. In a previous post, we explain the true and hidden costs of fossil fuels and how switching to solar saves money and resources. The average household in the US uses around 900 kilowatts of electricity every month, this is equivalent to 733 pounds of coal burned. In order to produce 900 kilowatts of electricity in a month, you would need a system of approximately 7 kW.

Every house will have a different size system, but the average system size we install is approximately 8.5 kWh. This means the average home could produce enough electricity from their solar system alone, and then some. The energy savings from an 8 kW system could be as high as $120,000 over 25 years, without including your solar incentive income.

The thought of electrifying your home can sound overwhelming, but Greentech Media has broken it down here to help homeowners better understand what this means. Call us at (781) 348-6496 to learn more about switching to a renewable source of energy, such as solar.

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