What’s all this Hype about Solar + Storage?

Combining solar and energy storage can generate significant value for commercial energy customers. Due to technology improvements and cost reductions, installing storage with solar can maximize energy savings potential and, with innovative financing solutions, it can be accomplished without using valuable capex dollars. That’s why REC Solar and Duke Energy recently entered into a partnership with Green Charge Networks to provide commercial energy customers the highest-value and most comprehensive storage and energy management solutions.

Combining solar and energy storage can generate significant value for commercial energy customers. Due to technology improvements and cost reductions, installing storage with solar can maximize energy savings potential and, with innovative financing solutions, it can be accomplished without using valuable capex dollars. That’s why REC Solar and Duke Energy recently entered into a partnership with Green Charge Networks to provide commercial energy customers the highest-value and most comprehensive storage and energy management solutions.

The old thinking on solar + storage

In the past, energy storage (a.k.a. batteries) were seen as expensive and non-essential add-ons to solar installations. They required significant maintenance and rarely generated positive cash flow.  Historically, the only reason for paying extra for onsite energy storage was to provide back-up power during blackouts or other unexpected electricity outages. Therefore, for most companies, energy storage was seen as an expensive investment for something that might be used once a year—or even less.

The new thinking on solar + storage

Today, it’s a new story. First, storage solutions have dropped in price thanks to new battery innovations that store more energy for less. Along with battery cost declines, advanced energy management software can now analyze a business’ electricity usage and draw energy from the least expensive source at any given point in time.

For example, at high noon when the sun is shining, the facility’s energy could be drawn directly from the solar panels and energy storage system, reducing a company’s peak usage when energy is most costly and recharging the battery during the morning or late evening when energy is less costly.  Ultimately, by combining solar and energy storage a building can use energy smarter and the net cost to operate a building decreases.

Top peak shaving benefit: Reducing high demand charges

Most significantly, commercial solar plus storage can dramatically reduce costly demand charges, which can often make up half of a commercial or industrial company’s electric bill.

When a factory or business first turns on machines or a thermostat turns on heating and cooling systems, power usage surges to a level that’s higher than normal. Even if the power spike lasts just a few minutes, the utility will typically charge customers an additional monthly fee based on the peak kilowatt (kW) of power reached at that moment. Their reasoning is that they have to compensate for these surges by maintaining surplus power capacity, and they’re passing those costs on to the consumer.

To avoid these monthly demand charges, companies have to eliminate power consumption surges. That’s where solar with energy storage can help both customers and utilities. Energy management software can anticipate these power surges and draw energy from the building’s batteries, thus eliminating surges, helping balance the grid—and reducing expensive demand charges for a commercial or industrial facility.

Solar Plus Energy Storage Financing

The last element that’s getting companies excited about adding energy storage to solar systems is the new era of solar financing. Several years ago, solar and storage systems had to be purchased with cash or loans. Today, solar power purchase agreements (solar PPAs) allow companies to install solar and storage systems with little to no upfront costs. The PPA typically provides a business with lower electric rates than the local utility.

In addition, solar PPAs provide predictable, below market energy costs over the life of the energy sale contract. REC Solar’s PPA is backed by Duke Energy, the largest energy company in the United States, providing customers with even greater confidence in our long-term agreements.

The hype about solar and energy storage is real, and since the 30% investment tax credit (ITC) for solar has been extended five more years, the time is now to enjoy some of the best financial returns possible.  With solar plus storage, your company could discover significant savings, all while doing your part to reduce the negative effects of excess carbon in our atmosphere. Our oceans and all the creatures that live and depend on them will thank you. Give us a call and let us evaluate what Solar + Storage can do for your company.

 

Castoro Cellars Pairs Winemaking & Solar Power for a Winning Blend

California’s Central Coast wine region ranks as one of the top viticultural areas on the planet, with more than 300 wineries spread across the area’s rolling hills and lush valleys. A growing number of local winemakers’ share a commitment to sustainability, which includes investing in solarphotovoltaic (PV) systems that offset electricity costs with the same clean energy source that gives life to their vineyards.

California’s Central Coast wine region ranks as one of the top viticultural areas on the planet, with more than 300 wineries spread across the area’s rolling hills and lush valleys. A growing number of local winemakers’ share a commitment to sustainability, which includes investing in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that offset electricity costs with the same clean energy source that gives life to their vineyards.

Templeton-based Castoro Cellars was an early Central Coast solar adopter and has continued to add new PV capacity since its first installation in 2006. The company’s initial systems power its Cobble Creek Vineyards’ tasting room, a nearby house and a small well pump. The 18 kilowatts (KW) of arrays built by REC Solar incorporate both ground-mount and rooftop solar elements and generate more than 30,000 kilowatt-hours (KWh) annually.

“The reason we went solar was that it was the right thing to do,” said Niels Udsen, owner of Castoro Cellars. “Our original goal on the first project was to get to the first tier of power on the Pacific Gas & Electric rates. Even then, we were in the fifth tier with a lot of our power for the first one, so it didn’t take that long for it to pay for itself, like three to five years.”

The second round of commercial solar installations at Castoro took place in 2012 and consist of a pair of ground-mount arrays and a rooftop system built by REC Solar at the company’s Dos Viñas estate vineyards. The 61.4 KW installed capacity of the three systems generates some 106,500 KWh per year, offsetting nearly 100% of the electricity requirements of a pair of sizeable well pumps and the adjoining apartment, according to Udsen. The installation also paid for itself in a few years.

While a true believer in sustainable, environmentally conscious agriculture practices, the Castoro proprietor also sees the economic benefits of solar. “Financially, it makes sense; if you’re a long-term thinker, it’s completely rational to do,” he explained.

Castoro’s opening forays into solar will soon be eclipsed by a new project that dwarfs the existing systems in size, power generation—and return on investment. Construction by REC Solar is under way on a 625 KW ground-mount installation that will cover three acres in the Stone’s Throw vineyards where muscat canelli grapes grew until recently. The system is scheduled to come online before the end of the year, and when completed, will produce 1.042 million KWh of clean energy annually.

“We would’ve done it many years earlier, but we had to get sole ownership of the property before we could, and we did that last year,” Udsen said. “The system is for our processing facility, where we have fermentation tanks, refrigeration, bottling lines, compressors, whatever it takes to run a good-size winery. We’re shooting for a goal of 100% offset.”

As with all the Castoro solar systems, Udsen will pay for the new installation, an investment that he’s happy to make. “I’m lucky enough to have a good enough cashflow and revolving line of credit that I’ve never specifically financed any of the projects. I’m paying for it as part of our doing business.”

“We’re paying over $250,000 in power bills a year, and it keeps going up,” he said. “With the offset from the new solar setup, I can take that cashflow down to about $30,000 with just the financing aspect of it, and we then have more than $200,000 that can be applied each year to paying off the system. Along with the tax credits we get, it won’t take much to get payback, somewhere between four and five years.”

The Stone’s Throw project will benefit from California’s aggregate net metering (NEM-A) program for agriculture, which allows landowners to choose the best location for solar or wind on their property and then use the power generated to offset their bills from any of their electricity meters on the same or contiguous properties.

“I didn’t realize when we were first getting the project quoted that with the new net metering systems, you can put any meter on the property on that same system, it doesn’t have to be set directly to the meter, “Udsen noted. “There will be several different pumps included, and one of them is quite a large irrigation well pump.”

In addition to its fine pinots and zins, Castoro is also known for its live music programming, especially the annual Beaverstock Festival, a fundraiser for the Templeton public schools, which last year featured established and up-and-coming acts such as War, Dawes and La Santa Cecilia. A friend’s mobile solar generator has helped power the event in recent years, but Udsen would like to have a more substantial solar presence at future shows.

The music fest is not the only place where Udsen wants to add more solar. “We’re building a distillery, and initially there’s no power on the site, so we’re using a generator. Once we get the power, it would be prime spot for solar everywhere up there.”

Please contact us to start a commercial solar energy evaluation for your business or organization.