Solar Energy and Storage

a guest post by Bob Haughton, Vice President of Business Development at ONTILITY

Solar Energy and Storage

With the advent of utility smart meters and more REP’s gaining acceptance of solar as a growing segment of stand-alone site power production, more and more solar installations for both commercial and residential applications in recent years have been strictly grid-tie in nature. While the prospect of selling excess back to the grid is attractive in theory, it basically limits the way an array is utilized since in a purely grid-tied situation, when the grid goes down, the solar array stops producing.

A few years ago, as grid-tie was gaining momentum across the country, a great amount of requests for solar arrays involved some type of storage system for the power it produced. The most common was a battery backup system that stored power for later use. Ed Wold, Sales Manager for ONTILITY and a Off-Grid Solution Subject Matter Expert cites a turn in the industry however, “ In the past, 90% to 95% of requests I received for battery backup was for off-grid applications.”

While grid-tied systems had exclusions for storage capacity, battery storage was also limited by several factors. While deterrents like non-industry specific design in the batteries themselves caused headaches and made price point and maintenance cost prohibitive, the bigger factor was that when batteries were in place, the array could not be connected to the grid. You basically had to pick your poison and live with it…Grid-tie or No Grid-Tie.

Fortunately, when the industry has a problem, the industry invents a solution. Welcome in the Hybrid inverter. A standard string inverter has to be able to sense a power signature in order to turn on and operate. No matter if it senses it from a storage capacity or from the grid, it needs to detect that signal. No signal, no power generations. Now the new Hybrid inverters can allow us to connect to the grid AND have a battery storage system, effectively the best of both worlds. When the grid is up, the inverter recognizes the sign wave and turns the array on to produce power. When the grid goes down, the automatic transfer capacity in the inverter seeks out a stored power signal from the batteries and turns the array back on so that the solar array can keep recharging the battery bank, allowing the user to utilize stored power for their energy needs. “These systems are gaining traction in the industry as a viable solution for those who cannot afford to lose power, but like the idea of selling back to the grid like a standard grid tied system allows “, says Wold. Couple that with the advent of true solar batteries with high cyclical rates and you’ve got a solution that is not only cost effective, but solves a lot of problems for those of us that need power in almost any situation.

Bob Haughton Bob is responsible for multiple disciplines relating to overall company growth but focuses on leading the large scale national distributor accounts marketing effort as well as leveraging installation/distribution marketing and procurement of large scale projects nationwide. Prior to Ontility, Bob was President of Renewable Energy Resource Associates as well as Regional General Manager over the South Texas/State of Louisiana region for Standard Renewable Energy/Gridpoint. Bob received a BA in Architecture from the University of Houston and is a State of Texas and Nationally certified Registered Building Designer.

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