Avoiding Battery Storage Installation Mistakes

Avoiding Battery Storage Installation Mistakes

Upcoming electric rate changes mean that almost every home and business will eventually benefit from a battery connected to their solar system. These combined systems provide tangible economic benefits: time shifting energy use, energy arbitrage, preserving the benefits of net metering and demand charge reduction.

In a nutshell, battery storage systems help preserve the benefits of net metering. But because of the grid’s unreliability — coupled with upcoming Public Service Power Shutoffs in California — the vast majority of our residential customers are installing battery storage systems for backup power.

As our company got back into the energy storage business with lithium ion batteries, we did extensive research into battery systems and their compatible inverters, into manufacturers, into software and operating modes, and into the interconnection and incentive process. After almost two years of selling and installing battery storage systems we’ve gained a lot of wisdom — and made some mistakes along the way. To help our fellow contractors and our future customers, here are ten of our most systemic and painful battery storage installation mistakes:

1. Misunderstanding customer desires 
2. Incomplete product offerings 
3. Underestimating support and maintenance costs 
4. Adding batteries to existing systems  
5. If the CTs don’t fit, you’re in deep sh-t  
6. Complicated backup panel wiring  
7. Buggy software and firmware 
8. Interconnection problems 
9. Incentive delays 
10. Battery warranty claims 

For more insights into avoiding battery storage installation mistakes, please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show.

New Rules for Energy Storage in CA – with Josh Weiner

New Rules for Energy Storage in CA – with Josh Weiner

In the early days of solar and storage, virtually every system used lead acid batteries to store daytime energy and use this energy at night. Although these systems functioned well, they required a lot of maintenance (you can tell old-time battery installers from the acid burns in their jeans), were quite heavy, had complicated control systems and had limited lifetimes. Net metering alleviated the need for battery storage. But now with changes in net metering, Time of Use (TOU) rates and poor grid reliability, batteries are experiencing a resurgence.

Part of the reason for this battery comeback is that new lithium ion battery storage systems overcome almost all the disadvantages of lead acid systems (they are still somewhat expensive). These systems are designed to be installed next to your solar inverter, have integrated battery management and control systems, and require no maintenance over their guaranteed 10 year lifespans.

Utilities are moving their peak electric rates from mid day to the late afternoon and evening when the sun doesn’t shine. With battery storage, customers can time-shift their energy use — running their homes and businesses from stored energy in their battery, and replenishing that battery the next day when the sun is shining. Many of these battery systems can also provide backup power during a grid outage — or one of the “Planned Power Outages” that utilities implement to prevent power line-caused fires.

The best news is that many states, including California, provide rebates to reduce the costs of battery storage systems. Please tune in to this week’s Energy Show as Josh Weiner from Sepi Solar joins us to explain the codes and standards that apply to the installation of energy storage systems.

Is There a MicroGrid in Your Future

Is There a MicroGrid in Your Future


You know what they say: “Video killed the radio star.” Well I’m going out on a limb and adding video to this week’s podcast. But since my fans say I have a perfect face for radio, I’m not worried that this video podcast will affect my Arbitron ratings. Nevertheless, my guests on this video podcast are much more telegenic, so I encourage you to click through to this video link. (more…)

Flow Batteries with Matt Harper from Avalon

Flow Batteries with Matt Harper from Avalon


It’s depressing that lithium batteries get almost all of the focus in the energy storage industry. Lithium batteries have a number of advantages, including high energy density, good longevity, declining costs and established integration with electronics, vehicles and stationary energy storage. Although ideal for residential and commercial storage applications, lithium ion chemistries are not great for long term and high capacity energy storage — which are the characteristics that many utility storage installations require. (more…)

Fuel Cells Are Making a Comeback

Fuel Cells Are Making a Comeback


Energy storage is critical to our ability to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. Basically, we need a way to store the abundance of daytime solar and use this energy at night. Although lithium ion batteries have been getting most of the attention, fuel cells provide another way to convert fuels into electricity. (more…)