Solar and Storage: the Dynamic Duo

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Valentine’s Day conjures up some of history’s best duos: Romeo and Juliet; Hans Solo and Chewbacca; peanut butter and jelly. At JLL, we’re thinking of another remarkable pair – one that gives both sustainability and financial experts reason to celebrate: solar and storage.

While solar power generation isn’t new, it has reached a crucial tipping point. Sourcing energy from the sun is not only commercially viable, it can be a sound economic opportunity for companies willing to invest in sustainable energy infrastructure.Solar cells at sunset.

But the reality is that the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day. Solar power can only create energy (and offset non-solar energy) during daylight hours. When the sun sets, it’s game over. With a finite amount of daylight to collect solar Photovoltaic (PV) energy, is there a way to capture and extend power-producing sunlight?

There is, according to Kyle Goehring, National Alternative Energy Services Manager at JLL. The answer is solar power plus battery storage. “Just like electric cars that run off of stored battery power, solar energy can use similar battery storage technology to prolong or increase the number of hours of solar energy that can be used,” he said.

With a solar plus storage program, a company can store solar energy from a PV system and use the power when moonlight has replaced sunlight. For example, a business could use battery-stored power in the early morning hours before the sun rises, and again in the evening after the sun sets; therefore, gaining several additional hours per day of renewable power.

As the number of solar energy customers increases, utility companies are paying attention. Self-sufficient energy customers mean fewer utility customers, especially during daylight hours when energy prices have historically been the highest. As a result, utilities are shifting their most expensive times of day to evening hours when people must pull power from the grid and have no choice but to pay peak energy prices.

“Solar plus storage helps bypass much of this,” Goehring said. “Now you’re not just using renewable energy, but you’re getting the financial benefit of reducing your energy spend and progressing with the utilities as they gainfully shift their highest cost of energy.”

The traditional model of a power plant providing energy to a customer miles away leaves room for error. Distribution line loss is frequent as power loses efficiency as it travels across the line. Efficiency aside, it’s possible that a customer may not get enough power to keep business operations up and running. A life-critical hospital or a 24-hour data center cannot afford such business interruptions. By using a battery storage system that is integrated with the grid, a business not only has the energy it needs, but also a seamless switch to its stored energy.

“Then you have something called Demand Response,” said Steve Yatsko, Vice President with JLL’s Alternative Energy Services. “If you’re equipped with battery storage, during times of peak energy demand, utilities will pay you to use that stored energy and not pull from the power station.”

For JLL clients, this can create a new revenue stream on top of the benefits of power quality and seamless business operations. Clients that experience power spikes at regular intervals are great candidates for solar plus storage.

“A proof of concept has taken place,” said Goehring. “We now have increased adoption of battery storage, the support of the financial community and now investment in the infrastructure. There’s proof now that solar plus storage makes operational and financial sense.”

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