Solar panels, Hurricane Sandy and why we need battery storage

Bloomberg reports that solar panels were of no help to those left without power by Hurricane Sandy. That’s because a solar system is grid connected and when an outage occurs, the solar system shuts down so it doesn’t send electricity to the grid and electrocute workers who might be working on power lines. On the plus side, there don’t appear to be any reports of damage to solar panels, which solar installer Sunrun says can withstand 100 mile winds.

What this raises is the question of whether there’s value to pairing battery storage with solar power. SolarCity began selling a solar installation paired with a battery pack recently, and says that the stored power would run “for a few days” in the event of a grid outage, like a hurricane or more likely in California, an earthquake. The other day-to-day benefit could be that the battery could provide power at night and if utilities increasingly go toward discriminatory pricing, in which prices fluctuate throughout the day based on demand, then the battery could store power to deliver it at peak times.

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Adam Lesser

Analyst Gigaom Research

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