Baker Electric
Solar installers from Baker Electric place solar panels on the roof of a residential home in Scripps Ranch. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The shift towards renewable energy sources is more crucial than ever. Climate change is no longer an abstract concept but a pressing reality that demands immediate and innovative solutions. As a solar and energy storage contractor here in San Diego, I believe the future of solar power needs to be re-imagined from a broader perspective.

Last year, the California Public Utilities Commission in its infinite lack of wisdom changed incentives for homeowners purchasing a new solar rooftop. The updated rules went into effect in April.  The rule changes how systems need to be designed and some consider it a backward decision in a time when increased incentives are needed to encourage clean energy adoption.

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To counter the new rules, a game-changer in the world of renewable energy is rooftop solar paired with battery energy storage. In our sunny climate, the value of these systems has skyrocketed.

The recent surge in utility rates has made homeowners realize that their home energy systems are more critical than ever. San Diego residents are facing a double-digit increase in electricty rates on Jan. 1, a stark reminder of the need for a resilient and self-sustaining energy infrastructure.

However, it’s not just about individual homeowners saving on their electricity bills. The CPUC needs to embrace the full potential of rooftop solar and energy storage to bolster the entire grid. Solar energy, especially when coupled with battery storage, can contribute significantly to grid stability.

The excess energy generated during the day can be stored and released during peak hours, mitigating the stress on the grid. Homeowners who invest in solar-plus-storage systems become an integral part of the solution, contributing to grid reliability, and reducing the risk of blackouts.

One development of note is the increasing electrification of various sectors. Energy storage systems are no longer just a safeguard against blackouts; they play a crucial role in mitigating emergency load reduction events like Flex Alerts. 

There are innovative programs for homeowners with installed batteries to participate in, such as virtual power plants, that help stabilize the grid while providing compensation to VPP participants for their energy contributions. Programs like these underscore the potential of distributed energy resources.

Even more exciting is the prospect of scaling up these virtual power plants to interact with the California Independent System Operator. The vision of a battery on every home becoming an integral part of the California grid represents a paradigm shift in how we perceive renewable energy.

It transforms a smart home battery into a powerful asset, with advanced algorithms, optimizing energy storage systems based on weather conditions and household consumption patterns. Smart batteries maximize savings and contribute to grid stability by synchronizing energy release during peak demand periods.

The key to making the most of these energy storage systems lies in offsetting the utility’s aggressive time-of-use rates. Whether it’s using electricity judiciously during off-peak hours or drawing from your battery when rates are highest, solar-plus-storage setups offer a compelling solution. Battery technology advancements now allow for tailored systems that mirror your usage patterns during peak hours, saving you money and reducing strain on the grid.

The electric vehicle revolution adds another layer of complexity to the energy landscape. With EVs becoming increasingly prevalent, homeowners have limited choices when it comes to electricity rates. The disparity between daytime and peak-time rates makes it imperative to find cost-effective ways to charge EVs. Solar production on rooftops gains newfound importance as it can be harnessed to charge these vehicles with clean, renewable energy, further reducing our carbon footprint.

Beyond the environmental benefits, the solar industry is a potent source of job creation. In California alone, more than 78,000 people are employed in the solar sector, including 17,500 jobs in energy storage. These renewable energy jobs represent the future, offering well-paying positions in a growing industry. As we expand the manufacturing of solar panels, batteries, and inverters in the United States, the industry’s growth is generating even more employment opportunities, fostering a robust and sustainable economy.

The future of solar power in San Diego County and beyond demands a broader perspective. Rooftop solar paired with energy storage is not merely about homeowners reducing their electricity bills; it’s about building a more resilient and sustainable energy infrastructure. It’s about homeowners becoming active contributors to grid stability and reducing the environmental impact of their energy consumption. It’s about harnessing the potential of smart batteries and creating jobs in the renewable energy sector.

The 21st-century vision for solar power must encompass all these aspects, paving the way for a cleaner, greener, and more prosperous future.

Mike Teresso is the president of Baker Home Energy in Escondido. He lives in San Diego.