More Utahns getting solar storage batteries, joining the virtual power grid model

Posted at 11:00 AM, Jan 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-16 18:44:08-05

KAYSVILLE, Utah — More homes are being built or retrofitted with solar panels, but the traditional model of pumping the power back into the grid just isn't cutting it.

Nic Evans, the VP of Commercial at ES Solar said, "In California, there’s a huge problem with a lot of solar going into the grid when they don’t necessarily need it."

So now Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) is offering the Wattsmart Battery Program.

This is where solar panels on a home are connected to a solar energy storage battery in the home.

Evans is also one of about 1,000 Utah homeowners who are enrolled in the program.

He said, "I think the most common question I get asked by neighbors is ‘Does it really work?’ and it absolutely works."

The battery lets homeowners use their stored solar power whenever they want.

Evans said he likes to keep it in self-consumption mode, which means he gets to consume everything that his solar panels produce.

Homeowners can tell the solar storage battery to discharge power directly from the battery or by using an app.

"We can look at the app and see what the battery’s producing, what it’s collecting from the solar panels itself," said Evans.

RMP first tested the idea at the Soleil Lofts Apartments in Herriman.

David Eskelsen, a Spokesperson for Rocky Mountain Power said, "The power company can control the charging and particularly the discharging of those batteries to support grid response during times of high use."

The battery can also kick in when there's a power outage.

"Homeowners are protected against grid outages and they also contribute to the power company’s ability to respond and balance the grid, which is probably the biggest job that we do every single day," said Eskelsen.

In fact, Evans said he has already experienced a time when the solar storage battery came in handy.

The Kaysville homeowner said, "We had a big fire out here in the west Farmington area and the power went out, so my generator fired up, my battery kicked into the off-grid mode, and my solar was continuously running."

By enrolling, the average home earns a $2,400 cash incentive and a $90 annual power bill credit.

When signing up, homeowners are required to make a four-year commitment.

At this time, only three Sonnen batteries qualify for the Wattsmart Battery Program (Core, Eco, and EcoLinx) but RMP hopes to have more sign up to become eligible in the near future.

The solar storage battery can also be a cheaper alternative for people with electric vehicles.

"You come home from work, you plug in your electric vehicle, you may want to start discharging your battery at that point so you’re not pulling from the grid," said Evans.

It's estimated about 50,000 Utah homes have solar panels on them, but no solar storage battery.