New report analyzes solar+storage effectiveness in storm-ravaged U.S. Southeast
Solar and battery storage technologies that provide clean, reliable backup power are cost-effective for many critical community facilities in the Southeast, according to Clean Energy Group’s report series, “Resilient Southeast: Exploring Opportunities for Solar+Storage in Five Southeastern Cities,” released today in partnership with regional nonprofit partners. The report details a first-of-its-kind economic analysis evaluation for solar PV and battery storage (solar-plus-storage) in the region. When the economic value of resilience is accounted for, solar-plus-storage was proven to be a positive investment for all locations and building types examined.
“This new analysis marks the first time solar paired with storage has been explored for communities across the Southeast,” said Seth Mullendore, vice president and project director of Clean Energy Group, “It clearly shows that this innovative technology combination can bring real value to populations that have been hit so hard by severe weather and widespread outages in recent years.”
The report series explores the economic case for resilient solar-plus-storage in five cities: Atlanta, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Wilmington, North Carolina. Each of these cities has a history of increasingly severe weather and extended power outages that have left vulnerable populations without access to resources when they are most in need of assistance. By evaluating the opportunity for solar-plus-storage to serve as a clean, reliable onsite energy source that can keep communities safe during a power outage, the authors conclude that, in many cases, the combination of solar-plus-storage offers a cost-effective alternative to traditional backup power technologies. Beyond providing emergency backup power during grid outages, solar-plus-storage systems can deliver benefits throughout the year, including significant electric bill savings and valuable grid services.
Clean Energy Group partnered with Alliance for Affordable Energy, Catalyst Miami, Energy and Policy Institute, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Southern Environmental Law Center, Southface Institute, and Upstate Forever for this report series. The economic analysis was performed by The Greenlink Group. The work was supported by the New York Community Trust.
“In 2018, the Southeast was hit by both Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael, and the year before it was Hurricane Irma,” said Marriele Robinson, a program associate at Clean Energy Group. “As natural disasters like these increase in frequency and intensity, we need to make sure that low-income residents and other vulnerable populations will be protected during the next storm.”
“Superstorm Sandy taught New Yorkers that access to electricity can make all the difference in relief and recovery efforts,” said Arturo Garcia-Costas, The New York Community Trust’s program officer for the environment. “Thousands remained without heat and running water for more than two weeks in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, including the residents of one of the City’s largest public housing complexes. A local nonprofit that, by a stroke of luck, did not lose power helped to coordinate relief efforts, refrigerate medicines, and recharge cell phones, illustrating how vital it is to create resilient power hubs in coastal communities.”
While utility-scale solar and, more recently, battery storage has begun to gain traction in parts of the Southeast, there has been much less progress in advancing distributed, customer-sited installations throughout the region. This report series aims to address this lack of progress by answering the question: Does solar paired with battery storage make economic sense for strengthening the resilience of cities in the Southeast? Based on the results of detailed economic analysis of four critical building types in each city, the answer is yes.
“This analysis coincides with a wide range of grid modernization efforts underway in the Southeast, showing how new and innovative non-wires alternatives, like distributed solar and battery storage, can provide value immediately in the Southeast and deliver much-needed energy services when disaster strikes,” said Matt Cox, CEO and founder of The Greenlink Group.
For each city, the economic case for solar and battery storage was evaluated at different types of critical community facilities: schools operating as emergency shelters, nursing homes providing critical medical care, multifamily housing sheltering vulnerable populations, and fire stations acting as critical first responders. While solar-plus-storage was found to be a cost-effective solution in all locations analyzed, cities benefiting from supportive policies and incentives, such as Wilmington and Charleston, had a much stronger case for resilient solar-plus-storage deployment than cities with fewer opportunities to achieve bill savings and less supportive policies, like Miami and New Orleans. Atlanta, with a mix of supportive conditions and challenging barriers, ranked in the middle of the pack for solar-plus-storage deployment.
Despite largely encouraging economic findings, the reports also indicate that there is significant room for improvement. City-specific reports present a detailed overview of the policy, market, and regulatory landscape for solar and battery storage in each of the five cities, exploring enabling policies and barriers ranging from net energy metering policies and utility electric rates to available incentives and financing options.
To address existing barriers, the reports present potential near-term opportunities for policy and regulatory changes that could advance solar-plus-storage development in the Southeast and conclude with a set of recommendations.