CT Green Bank’s Battery Energy Storage Program Could Take Time

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The state is trying to boost the adoption of electric storage batteries in homes and businesses through an incentive program called “Energy Storage Solutions,” which began in January.

But batteries are expensive. And the incentive program, which can provide up to $7,500 to offset installation costs and give customers payments for electricity fed back into the grid, is still relatively new.

All of this means that Connecticut consumers and batteries still need time to connect.

“The batteries are in my garage, I can look at them, [but] they’re not working yet,” said Paul Aho, a Mansfield resident who made a deposit in January for two battery modules through the state’s Energy Storage Solutions program. He also installed solar panels.

Aho said that once the batteries are working, they will provide a clean source of backup power.

“If there’s a power outage, I can limp with the batteries for three or four days,” he said. “If the sun came up anytime during those three or four days, I could go even longer without the grid working.”

And while he said it was the Energy Storage Solutions program and its financial incentives that made buying the batteries viable, he wishes the process didn’t take so long.

“Anyone getting into this field should be warned that it will take a frustratingly long period of time before the batteries actually work,” Aho said.

Charging the battery bureaucracy

Connecticut Green Bank, which operates the incentive program in partnership with Eversource and United Illuminating, said about 200 applications from residential customers have been submitted to the Energy Storage Solutions program since January.

So far, none of these applications have been fully completed, according to Green Bank.

“We’ve been working very hard with utilities for the past six or seven months to get everything up and running,” said Sergio Carrillo, director of incentive programs at Connecticut Green Bank.

Carrillo said a mix of factors contributed to the delay: homeowners who need proper documentation to connect batteries to the grid, installation contractors and battery manufacturers who need to be vetted, and simple consumer education on what batteries can – and can’t – do.

In other words, the bureaucratic cogs need time to get going.

“Adoption has been very slow,” Carrillo said. “It could take us six more months, [then] we would expect the number of applications to skyrocket, but we are not there yet.

How much does a battery installation cost?

Energy storage works best if batteries in a home or business are connected to a solar panel for recharging. This way, when the lights go out, the panels can still charge the batteries and customers have access to a clean, quiet backup power source.

Carrillo said installing a battery can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000. But costs can increase if a homeowner wishes to install multiple modules to provide more backup power.

To help offset costs, Green Bank is offering owners an initial incentive capped at $7,500, though Carrillo said the typical customer would likely have to install more than one battery to get it.

“In exchange for that, we ask the batteries to participate in what we call ‘passive dispatch,'” Carrillo said.

In simple terms, this means utilities get the first dibs on a battery’s power at certain times and can use that power to help reduce peak demand – specifically, during non-holiday weekdays in June. to August, between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

“The remaining nine months of the year, owners can do whatever they want with the batteries,” Carrillo said.

Utilities will also, at times, offer customers an additional incentive when power from their battery is used either for on-site power requirements or fed back into the grid. This is called “active dispatch” and utilities will write a check to compensate customers for the power supplied by their batteries.

In the event of a power outage, both “passive” and “active” dispatch arrangements are suspended so customers can power their homes.

“Once you add in the performance incentives that will be paid for 10 years,” Carrillo said in an email, “a [low- to moderate-income] the customer could possibly fully cover the installation costs. »

Federal tax credits can also help cover costs if the battery is connected to a solar system, he said.

What are the benefits of batteries?

Public education on energy storage batteries is still in its infancy. To help spread the word, Green Bank hosted a webinar this week on batteries and the Energy Storage Solutions program.

Carrillo said one of the main attractions of batteries over fossil fuel-powered generators is that batteries can be a self-contained, clean and quiet power source when the lights go out.

“Batteries will be able to provide power in the event of a power outage to homes or businesses,” Carrillo said. “Depending on the size of the battery systems, this can range from a few hours to a few days.”

Carrillo said it’s important for homeowners to understand that a battery module can’t fully power a home in the event of a power outage. But he said he can provide enough power for things like a fridge, light bulbs and medical equipment.

“That would probably give you six, eight, ten hours of battery life,” he said.

“This would be particularly useful if the battery is tied to a [solar] system,” Carrillo said, because it ensures that during the day the solar panels can charge the batteries, which could then supply electricity at night.

Once the sun rises, Carrillo says, the cycle begins again.

“You would be able to power your house for days if needed,” he said.

But none of these benefits can be realized until the batteries are turned on. And for that, Mansfield resident Paul Aho is still waiting.

“The incentives are working fine,” Aho said. “We just need to make all the bureaucratic cogs work more smoothly.”

This story was originally published on July 11, 2022 by Connecticut Public.


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