In accordance with Uri, solar battery gross sales are skyrocketing – Austin Monitor

Seven months after winter storm Uri killed more than 200 people across Texas and left millions without power, demand for solar power and home battery systems has skyrocketed.

Austin Energy has received more requests for solar panel and battery installations since the storm than in the past four years combined, said Luis Rivas, a utility spokesman.

Tanzeel Rehman, Sales Manager at Solar SME Inc., agrees with the increasing demand. "After the snowstorm, many homeowners contacted us about battery backup solutions."

The interest in battery systems was particularly high during the days of power outages across central Texas. While those who had solar power installed before the frost found some relief, a shortage of battery systems has left many of them lacking energy reserves for heating, lighting, and other vital needs.

In the same period from March to August 2020 there were a total of 498 solar inquiries with only 12 inquiries for solar plus storage. This year, according to Austin Energy, there were already 85 requests for solar and storage – an increase of 87 percent over the previous year. The total solar requests are currently 592.

Rivas explained that solar panels produce energy in real time but do not contain energy storage by default. The energy produced is consumed by the closest load – usually the house where the modules are installed. If the house does not need all of the energy produced at the exact point in time, the energy is fed into the grid. Without a storage system, houses that are only equipped with solar panels may have to rely on electricity from the grid at night.

If an energy storage device (a battery) is installed, a transfer switch would prevent the solar energy from being fed into the grid. In the event of a power failure, the solar panel could still function and recharge the batteries, explained Rivas. Battery systems can be installed to provide power to the entire home or to a separate critical load panel, using only circuits that the customer wishes to operate during an outage.

Austin Energy credits the customer for all solar energy generated, regardless of whether the energy was consumed by the home or fed into the grid.

Bob and Diana Christensen have lived in Austin for over 25 years. They considered investing in a solar system for their house, but they were never really won over by the idea because of the cost. The return on your investment played a large role in your decision not to turn to solar energy just yet.

“A battery backup system can cost anywhere from $ 8,000 to $ 20,000; that's a lot of money, of course, ”said Chloe Holden, analyst for energy research advisor Wood Mackenzie. "I don't know if they are affordable for the average American."

Holden found that a solar system saves money in the long run by minimizing electricity costs. However, prices would have slowed battery system adoption for many residents, including those interested in solar energy.

"Until recently, batteries were complicated and expensive, which made them a rarity among solar systems," said Rivas, Austin Energy spokesman. "There is a lot of potential for renewable energy coupled with energy storage, and we are working to ensure that our customers can participate in these opportunities as technologies evolve."

Based on its sales experience, Rehman expects a further reduction in battery prices in a year or two based on ongoing research and development. The solar battery market also faces a lot more competition than last year.

The use of batteries is steadily increasing. Solar battery prices have continued to fall year-over-year, with lithium-ion battery pack costs falling from over $ 1,100 per kWh in 2010 to $ 137 per kilowatt hour (kWh) last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance .

To ease the price barrier, state and federal programs have helped more residents get on the solar train. Austin Energy is offering a free on-demand solar education course, a first step towards access to a $ 2,500 solar incentive. You can also find a list of nearly 100 participating solar companies on the utility's website.

At the federal level, a customer could access a one-time solar investment tax credit of 26 percent when filing income tax. The Biden administration extended the loan for another two years in early 2021.

In contrast to the discounts for the energy efficiency program, according to Rivas, the solar bonus has a typical waiting time of three months or less from the application to the payment of the discount. They are distributed individually.

Photo by Viktor Lapinskii, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

This story was written by a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin. The Austin Monitor works with the UT School of Journalism to publish stories produced by students on the City and County Government Reporting course.

The Austin Monitor's work is made possible through donations from the community. Although our reporting includes donors from time to time, we take great care to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A full list of donors can be found here and our Code of Ethics is explained here.

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