Barry Cinnamon is the CEO of Cinnamon Energy Systems in California.
Dave Barry said it best when he summed up 2020: “This has been a year of uninterrupted horror, a year where we kept saying it couldn’t possibly get worse, and it always did. This was a year when our only moments were real, unadulterated happiness when we could buy toilet paper. ”
Fortunately, our products and services have been in high demand for many companies in the solar and storage industries. From a sales perspective, 2020 wasn’t as bad as it could have been. As businesses and employees consider the long-term benefits of continuing to work at home, the demand for affordable, reliable, behind-the-meter power is likely to be even higher in 2021. A favorable political environment will help. Here are my predictions for solar and storage for 2021.
- All roof orientations are fair game for solar. The module efficiency has risen from around 13 percent to over 20 percent in the last 20 years. In conjunction with the corresponding 10-fold price reduction, it now makes economic sense to install modules on all unshaded roof orientations. Gone are the days when the rooftops in the north were ignored.
- Buildings are designed to be CO2 negative. Higher module efficiencies mean that two-story buildings can be designed to be carbon negative and generate more energy than they use operationally. The percentage of roofs covered with solar will necessarily increase.
- The qualification level for solar and storage companies will increase. The additional functions and configuration options of an integrated solar and storage system require higher qualification levels. Gone are the days when installers only had to plug in a black, a red, and a green wire for a system to function properly. Installers must be familiar with building electrical wiring, CAT5 / 6 communication cabling, various wireless communication protocols, desktop and mobile phone applications, and dozens of inverter / battery configuration options. Conventional electrical and roof training courses are just a stepping stone for solar and storage installers.
- The power electronics duopoly at module level will be continued. SolarEdge (power optimizers) and Enphase (microinverters) inverters have become the standard in over 75% of rooftop installations. The patent protection for these components in connection with the manufacturing scale and the requirements for the fast shutdown of NEC has created a significant market entry barrier for competing products. Even so, technology advances, so executives must continue their innovation efforts to stay ahead.
- Customer service and guarantees are important selection criteria for the battery system. We have learned from childhood that batteries are inherently short-lived. The ten-year warranties on all batteries in the energy storage system are only as good as the integrity (both financial and ethical) of the company that backs those warranties. Savvy consumers will buy systems from manufacturers who have a proven record of supporting their products.
- The requirements of UL 9540 / A will block new ESS product versions. These well-intentioned safety standards, designed to prevent batteries from thermal runaway, are enforced before manufacturers have completed the required tests. In some situations, there are no “pass-fail” criteria for meeting the standards, so the interpretation of test results is left to the individual jurisdiction. For example, dual battery systems of 20 kWh or more are effectively banned in many California cities because the separation requirements for 36-inch batteries and exit routes cannot be met in most households.
- Solar systems on the roof should be oversized. Most builders will install new electrical appliances (heat pumps, induction hobs, etc.) when their old gas appliances fail – including the four-wheeled gas eater parked in the garage. Since buildings will inevitably use more electricity, oversizing the solar system is a wise design decision for most customers.
- EV chargers will be common options for new solar and battery systems. The same 40 amp circuit breaker needed for a standard solar system can also be used to power a level 2 electric vehicle charger. Some new inverter designs have a special connector for an EV charger, which simplifies the wiring, approval, and control of EV charging and significantly reduces costs.
- The house of the future will have two batteries in every garage (along with a chicken in each pot). One of these batteries is located in the electric vehicle and a stationary battery is attached to the wall. The ongoing decline in the cost of solar-powered stationary batteries will exceed the automaker’s appetite for V2G (vehicle-to-grid) systems. Companies that may charge daytime EV fees for their employees will be penalized with heavy utility demand fees for these well-intentioned efforts. The obvious – if not optimal – workaround is to continue installing separate battery systems for home use in addition to the battery in the car.
- Backing up the entire battery at home remains expensive. Securing an entire home during a power outage requires multiple batteries and inverters – an expensive proposition compared to securing substantial loads. Span and Schneider Electric are offering new “intelligent” load shedding switchboards that are ideal for building new homes. Retrofit installations are better served with independent load shedding regulators, which are ideally integrated into common inverter systems.
With two more years of ITC regression and the excitement for solar and storage in the White House, we can expect another good year for solar and storage in the US. However, two big factors will continue to limit the market penetration of these costs. effective systems. Firstly, a complete hostility on the part of the established energy providers towards solar and storage systems on the customer side, which leads to unfavorable electricity tariffs for self-generation and complicated connection requirements. Second, increasingly onerous soft costs, mainly related to equipment standards and building regulations.
Fortunately, our state (CALSSA, Solar Rights Alliance, etc.) and national (SEIA, Vote Solar, IREC, SEPA, etc.) advocacy groups are leading the charge of mitigating these headwinds. My New Year’s resolution is to continue to support this organization that is so important to our future success.