Solar Energy News

What's happening around the world in the solar industry and how it might affect you

Solar plus storage got a big boost this week with $18 million in SunShot Initiative grants from the Department of Energy.

While SunShot is striding briskly toward its goal of getting the cost of installed rooftop solar down to $1 per watt or 6 cents per kilowatt hour, the DOE is taking it one step farther now. Its new SHINES program, short for Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV, has a price target of 14 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s for fully integrated solar and storage solutions.

The new grants are funding six major solar-plus-storage projects and it marks the first time the DOE has focused specifically on energy storage integration with solar power.

Grants went to utility companies: Hawaiian Electric, Commonwealth Edison, Austin Energy and Southern Company. Research institutions Fraunhofer and EPRI also received funding along with storage grid companies 1Energy Systems, General Electric’s Alstom, Aquion Energy, Clean Power Research, EnerNOC, OSIsoft, S&C Electric, Siemens, Samsung, SolarEdge and Tesla.

“Ultimately, the solutions developed under this effort will enable the sustainable and holistic integration of hundreds of gigawatts of additional solar energy onto the electric grid throughout the United States,” according to a statement from DOE.

The projects are not simply funding battery research and development. The grants are directed at smart grid technologies and advancements aimed at balancing energy demand and supply. The proposed technologies that won grant funding promise to make rooftop solar systems a vital part of utility company grid supply.

That vision of the future runs counter to recent efforts from utility companies to slow the spread of rooftop solar by limiting and reducing net metering benefits and increasing connection fees for solar customers.

If SHINES is successful, rooftop solar could become an asset for utility companies rather than a liability.

Of course, if utilities don’t embrace the technological advancements that emerge from the SHINES programs, it could also become the impetus for mass grid defection.

“Solar PV and energy storage introduce a new level of opportunity and complexity in the delicate balancing act performed by grid planners every day,” Mike Howard, president and CEO of EPRI, told Energy Matters. “This effort can help integrate important components of our future energy system.”