Project to Evaluate Benefits of Community-scale Solar With Energy Storage

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niles east mobile home park solar

CSE will assess the capabilities and financial benefits of combining solar energy with battery storage systems to provide electricity in neighborhood communities under a newly awarded $2 million grant from the California Energy Commission.

The project’s goal is to develop a reliable and cost-effective self-contained power system at Niles East Mobile Estates in Bakersfield, Calif., that can be replicated in similar communities statewide to help lower residential energy costs, curb greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions, and support the electrical distribution grid.

The mobile home park is a low-income community with 139 spaces that is in transition to becoming resident owned. Once operational, the proposed energy system will reduce the park’s total electricity costs by about 40 percent with all savings passed to the residents. The current park owner will supply $350,000 to help pay for roughly half of the system hardware and permitting costs.

Overcoming barriers to community solar

The popularity of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for residential use continues to grow throughout California, but issues of daytime solar generation oversupply and meeting late afternoon peak power demands remain major obstacles to wider PV use.

The study will integrate a 240-kilowatt PV system with an energy storage system to create a “microgrid” that generates electricity by sunlight, stores it in lithium-ion batteries and dispatches it any time of the day or night as needed in the community or to the electric grid, according to Tim Sasseen, CSE’s principal advisor for distributed generation.

“This community-scale solar-storage energy system will demonstrate opportunities to overcome barriers to wider PV use,” Sasseen said. “In general, property owners and residents often are hesitant to install community-scale solar PV and energy storage because the financial returns are uncertain. Our project will provide clear value propositions to these systems.”

Sasseen estimates that if community-scale solar PV and energy storage systems were installed at just 5 percent of mobile home and multifamily dwellings across the state by 2025, it could cut annual energy generation needs by 480,000 kilowatt-hours. This reduced energy consumption alone would result in a reduction of roughly 159 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, with concurrent reductions in both nitrogen oxide and methane emissions.

This project is funded through the Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge initiative that supports efforts to advance clean energy technologies to help California meet its energy and climate goals. CSE’s project partners include solar installer Horizon Solar Power, system software developer Kisensum and battery manufacturer Tesla.

Chuck Colgan