10 Predictions for Rooftop Solar and Storage in 2018
It’s getting harder to separate solar from storage. Barry Cinnamon shares his predictions on the future of these technologies.
This year, I’m combining my solar predictions with storage, since battery storage is rapidly becoming integrated with PV systems.
1. U.S. solar cell manufacturing won’t restart anytime soon
Billions of dollars in long-term investments are required to achieve large-scale production of the next generation of high-efficiency solar cells. With the right solar industrial policies in place, the cell industry can indeed recover, and bring along associated panel and component manufacturing. Unfortunately, implementing policies to support these investments does not seem to be a priority in Washington, D.C.
2. The panel shortage will not mitigate until the end of Q2
The threat of tariffs is already causing a panel shortage. It takes about a month to finalize and ship orders to a port, and another month to ship containers from overseas — assuming panels are in stock. Without solar panels there can be no completed systems, so there will be a commensurate decline in revenue among all system components.
3. Wires will disappear from solar system monitoring
Cellular cloud-based solutions will prove to be more cost effective for monitoring. Experienced contractors are realizing that spending a few hundred dollars more on cellular monitoring is much cheaper than Ethernet-WiFi-ZigBee fiddling, and the inevitable customer callbacks as a result of home network failures.
4. Dumb solar modules on residential rooftops are dead on arrival
Dumb solar panels will be killed by NEC Rapid Shutdown requirements. There are only two solutions: module-level power electronics, or add-on string-level rapid shutdown boxes. After installing their first add-on rapid shutdown box, contractors will find that it is more cost-effective to install modules with microinverters or optimizers — leaving string inverter companies wondering what happened to their residential market share.
5. Utilities will thwart behind-the-meter solar
Utilities will continue increasing fixed monthly charges, flattening electric rates (smaller differences between large and small consumers), and moving peak time-of-use rates away from periods of maximum solar production. In this technology whack-a-mole game, consumers will respond by installing their own battery storage systems to maximize their self-consumption.
6. “Smart home” energy monitoring systems will continue to fail
Smart home offerings will suffer because of pricey installation costs and limited economic value. Adding connections to existing electrical panels (such as CTs) are expensive, and must be done to code by trained technicians. Instead, smart home systems that are bundled with PV, storage, cable or security systems have a better chance for success since these systems can justify high installation and support costs.
7. Energy storage system price declines will stagnate
Although battery prices will continue to decline, all-in energy storage system price declines will stagnate as contractors realize the additional integration work necessary to complete these systems. Simply adding the cost of the battery does not account for the additional design, permitting, software, training and configuration work necessary for these systems — not to mention incentive processing paperwork.
8. Integrated packages will become more important
The most successful residential energy storage systems will be those that package components together and provide easy-to-use software — thereby simplifying installation work….