A decision by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in Hawaii could open the doors to the island state for battery manufacturers.
The Public Utilities Commission has announced the end of the island’s net-energy metering system (NEM), where residential customers with rooftop solar could sell their excess electricity to the utility at retail rates, which means their power bill would sometimes be zero.
Under the new system, customers using grid supply can still sell their excess power back to the utility but at just 15 cents a kilowatt-hour compared to about 26 cents before. Those on self-supply systems cannot sell power to the grid but can self-store.
Solar installation company Island Pacific Energy began offering clients storage solutions in 2013, but so far only a few systems have been installed because, says CEO and founder Joe Saturnia, batteries have been too expensive to this point.
But with all the innovation in battery technology, he says that could be about to change.
“Ever since we’ve seen the end of NEM and, with this new self-supply/non-export thing, our phone has been ringing daily with technology firms, mostly from the mainland, who want to introduce PV/battery-storage type of products to Hawaii, in a variety of different technologies and configurations,” said Saturnia.
“I’ve heard that grid supply is 50% committed already. Say you’re a homeowner and you’re on a circuit but you really want to put PV in. How do you do it? The answer is: You put PV on the roof, and you put in an energy-management system with a storage component.
“Then, instead of constantly sending power back and forth to the grid, you’re sending power back and forth to your batteries, and you’re using the power from your roof to charge your batteries. Only when you’ve run out of power do you start to pull from the grid.”
In November, US firm JuiceBox installed the first li-ion battery-backed energy storage system in Hawaii on the island of Maui.