Solar Tribune

California Solar + Storage Project Will Be A “Win-Win”


Enphase energy and GRID Alternatives have partnered in the past to bring clean, affordable solar energy to low-income homes in California. Now, with net-metering caps kicking in, they are adding storage to this successful program.

Based in Oakland, California, GRID Alternatives is a non-profit organization that brings together community partners, volunteers and job trainees to implement solar power and energy efficiency for low-income families. They have a history of successful projects in California and were in the middle of installing 50 rooftop systems in the Imperial Irrigation District’s (IID) service territory, when IID’s 5% net metering cap kicked in and stalled the project. GRID Alternatives was only able to complete 18 of the 50 projects when the cap put a stop to the project.

Thankfully, microinverter pioneer Enphase Energy has a solution. Enphase was already a partner with GRID Alternatives on many of their low income and job training programs, and Enphase saw this setback as an opportunity. By adding storage to the new systems, this new solar-plus-storage project is forecast to cut a low-income customer’s monthly energy bill by 45% and save US$810 annually, according to the companies. In addition, the system is claimed to produce more power than it consumes for around 10 of 12 months.

Introduced last year as a part of their “Home Energy Solution”, their AC battery storage system  is a small, modular lithium-ion-based storage system that is both affordable and expandable. Although Enphase has struggled in the market recently, investor sites like Seeking Alpha are taking note of Enphase’s impressive innovations and successes with lower-end battery storage systems they have test-marketed in Australia. Despite the hype around Tesla’s Powerwall, Enphase is quietly eating Tesla’s lunch, increasing market share quarter-over-quarter, and in California alone, to an impressive 30%.

The GRID Alternatives program is the perfect American testbed for the AC battery. Utility companies around the country are capping net metering, and California is among the first states to see those caps taking effect. The market for storage is taking off, and innovators like Enphase and Grid Alternatives are among the first out of the gate, seeing storage not just as a boutique product for environmentally-conscious early adopters, but as a real cost-saving alternative for budget-conscious homeowners.

The work that Enphase is doing with GRID Alternatives is not just charity work, though. GRID Alternatives is America’s largest non-profit solar installer bringing clean energy technology and job training to low-income families and underserved communities through a network of community partners like Enphase,  GRID has installed 5,400 rooftop solar systems with a combined installed capacity of 18.5MW, saving $136 million in lifetime electricity costs, preventing 426,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and providing over 21,000 people with solar training. “Continuing our partnership with GRID Alternatives exemplifies Enphase’s commitment to putting clean, affordable energy on rooftops across America,” said Jeff Loebbaka, senior vice president of global sales, marketing and support for Enphase. “We’re also proud to play a role in the job training of underserved communities who otherwise may not be able to join the transition to clean energy.”

Meanwhile, the utility companies may be shooting themselves in the foot by increasing the demand for storage systems by capping net metering. It will be up to them to avoid underestimating the enthusiasm for solar again, and realizing all of the systems benefits that they can receive if they choose to. Meanwhile, innovators like Enphase and GRID will continue pushing out beyond the status quo, whether the utilities like it or not.

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