Week in Review: California Supports Solar as Energy Storage Is Highlighted

Solar rooftop at the Astor Chocolate building

Last week, California’s legislature passed new bills to support the expansion of solar in what’s already the largest solar energy market in the U.S. Meanwhile the energy storage industry showed signs that it’s poised for significant growth in upcoming years, particularly due to an increase in the popularity of solar. This will be ideal to help stabilize the grid, especially in places where solar might be used independently of the grid, like in Chile, where SunEdison is moving forward on installing a 100 megawatt project.

Late last week, California’s legislature passed AB 327. The bill shores up the state’s net-metering policy, which was set to sunset at the end of 2014. The bill also removes caps on net metering, which were previously limited to 5 percent of a utility’s energy portfolio. In addition, it sets the state’s 33 percent renewable portfolio standard as the baseline for how much clean energy its utilities must have. What's more, the bill now allows utility companies to charge ratepayers up to $10 a month for solar and clean energy.

A new report from Lux Research showed that solar paired with energy storage could balloon to a $2.8 billion market within the next five years. The report found that while the market is slated for growth, it won’t be driven by residential energy storage systems - particularly in areas tied to the grid.  Instead, it will find applications in developing nations where combined solar arrays with energy storage can provide a constant power source onsite. Such an application is ideal for cell phone towers in developing nations.

This report came out the same week the first Energy Storage North America Conference was held in San Jose. The conference brought together industry leaders in the energy storage industry, as well as the wind, solar, and utility industries.

Last week, SunEdison completed $260.5 million in financing with Rabobank, IFC and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to build a 100 megawatt Amanecer Solar CAP solar farm in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The company plans to complete the farm in the first quarter of 2014.  The solar farm will be tied to the grid, but will be used to power CAP’s mining and steel work.

In a major international agreement, First Solar partnered with Germany’s Belectric to jointly pursue PV projects in Europe, North Africa, and smaller, utility-scale projects in the U.S. The joint agreement will open up project opportunities for both companies and could include some of the projects Belectric already has on the books in the U.S.

Solar is also thriving in North Carolina. A recent NPD Solarbuzz report showed that North Carolina was second in the country in terms of the most solar installed in the second quarter of 2013. 

Solar rooftop at the Astor Chocolate building