Rather than selling excess solar power, some look to store it for later

Rather than selling excess solar power, some look to store it for later
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Anthony Aalto is about to flip the switch on his dependence on fossil fuels. Soon, he'll be more energy independent.

"I'll be connected to the grid basically in case of emergencies," he said.

Aalto chose Sunrun's BrightBox energy storage system to store solar power and energize his home. The system is powered by two Tesla Powerwall batteries.

The unit is the first installed under Hawaiian Electric Company's customer self-supply system.

"It allows me to power my house and whatever's left over I put into these batteries," he said. "At night, when the sun doesn't shine, I can draw on these batteries."

The Public Utility Commission's elimination of net energy metering is driving more consumers to invest in battery storage and backup units.

"Hawaii is really leading the way by allowing consumers to get the choice of their PV (photovoltaic) system with battery storage," said Sunrun's Chief Marketing Officer Michael Grasso said. "Consumers for the first time are going to be able to power their home both at day and at night."

Hawaiian Energy Connection's Powerblocks package is another system. It uses LG Chem batteries, and can be hooked to new and older solar panel systems.

"Our system is able to be installed in a retrofit market," said Chris DeBone, of Hawaiian Energy Connection.

A half dozen solar companies are leading the way in Hawaii's battery storage battle. Their systems are coupled with brand-name batteries.

"You're talking about major players that are going to able to fulfill the warranty -- LG Chem, Samsung, Tesla, Panasonic, Sony," DeBone said. "From there it starts getting thinner."

Prices on storage set-ups vary depending on consumer needs.

As for Aalto, he doesn't plan to get totally off the grid, but he will save on electricity.

He'll pay about 19 cents per kilowatt hour versus the 26-cent utility rate. "So I can do well by doing good," he said.

Aalto's home will be running off the Sunrun system as soon as HECO gives it the green light.

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