PV Pointers: How to future-proof PV systems with a storage-ready inverter

You don’t need to install a battery (yet) to give solar customers a next-gen solar-plus-storage system.

Your customer wants reassurance

Solar-plus-storage is finally ready for mainstream adoption, thanks to technology enhancements in DC-coupled inverters and continued cost reductions in smart battery technology. Batteries with grid-tied PV will soon be the standard offering as customers recognize the benefits of storing local behind-the-meter energy. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, lithium-based smart batteries are poised to follow the same cost reduction curve as PV modules, crossing the $200/kWh threshold in the next several years.

Pika Energy“We are seeing strong demand for storage-ready grid-tied photovoltaic systems,” says Phil Coupe of ReVision Energy, a solar installer in northern New England. “Today’s battery options remind me of where PV was five to 10 years ago, when the technology was pretty good but retail pricing was out of reach for all but the wealthiest and most progressive consumers.”

ReVision Energy has been installing the Pika Energy Island inverter for clients in the Northeast to prepare them for the day when batteries are more cost-competitive.

The demand for these batteries will grow proportionately with the economic use cases for solar-plus-storage. Already, an increasing number of U.S. markets are introducing time-of-use billing, eliminating or reducing net energy metering, billing residential customers based on periods of peak usage, or, in parts of Hawaii, disallowing new PV permits entirely.

Meanwhile, you have customers dragging their feet with proposals for carefully designed and economically modeled PV installations. And the more they read about solar-hostile policies, the more they may worry that their state could be the next Nevada.

How do you reassure a customer with misgivings about the future of solar-friendly politics in his or her utility region? The answer lies in the inverter you offer.

You can learn all about this and more during the upcoming Solar Builder webinar “Future-ready solar Installations with the Pika Energy Island.” Register here.

Your customer wants a secure investment

By offering a hybrid PV inverter that can operate as a grid-tied “conventional” system, but which has built-in islanding and the capability of directly integrating a smart battery later, you’re giving your customer the reassurance of a future-proof of the investment.

“More and more, people are recognizing that storage costs are beginning to decline, and they want their solar energy system to be able to integrate batteries when the price point justifies the investment,” Coupe notes.
Sometimes, having that reassurance is all a customer needs to move forward with their wise decision to power their home with solar. And for you, that means your solar installations can continue, unimpeded by local policy rhetoric.

Your customer wants options

In addition to reassurance to offset customers’ doubts in uncertain policy markets, hybrid inverters with the innate ability to switch between grid-tied and islanding power can offer customers flexible operational modes for various states of use. For example, customers with such inverters can use them for grid-tied net metering today and have the option to add a battery tomorrow for clean backup power.

ReVision Energy’s customers will use their battery-integrated grid-tied systems for clean backup power during winter grid outages, and, if solar policy grows hostile toward net metering, those customers have a simple step toward recovering their investment.

By offering hybrid islanding inverters that feature the option of adding directly-coupled batteries in the future, installers like ReVision Energy are providing a differentiated option that protects the customer’s clean energy investment, helping solar buyers to feel smart and secure in their decision.

Chip Means is director of sales development at Pika Energy.

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