Last fall, community-choice aggregators serving three Northern California counties announced plans to deploy thousands of solar-battery systems to provide backup power to residents facing the threat of fire-prevention blackouts. Now they’ve picked Sunrun, the leading U.S. rooftop solar installer and behind-the-meter battery aggregator, to get it done.
Under the terms of the deal, Sunrun will install up to 20 megawatts of solar-battery systems for about 6,000 homes served by CCAs East Bay Community Energy, Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy.
The goal is to offer vulnerable customers backup power in the likely event that utility Pacific Gas & Electric is forced to shut off power to reduce the risk of starting a catastrophic wildfire, such as the Nov. 2018 Camp Fire that killed 86 people, caused billions of dollars of damages and drove the utility into bankruptcy last year.
Sunrun and the CCAs are already enlisting customers and want to deploy the systems as rapidly as possible, with the aim of getting at least some installed in time for this year’s fire season and the majority done in time for next year’s likely blackouts.
The contracts with Sunrun are designed to do that by offering a $1,000 discount to customers buying one of Sunrun’s Brightbox battery-solar systems, and tapping the grid services value of the batteries to pay for the discount, JP Ross, a senior director at East Bay Community Energy, said in an interview.
“We are paying Sunrun and the end customer for the ability to use those batteries to manage our peak load,” he said. Sunrun will aggregate 5 megawatts of capacity to reduce EBCE’s peak demand forecast with the California Energy Commission, as well as serve system resource adequacy requirements set by the California Public Utilities Commission.
Bidding the systems as resource adequacy will help the CCAs reduce their reliance on the natural-gas-fired power plants that still provide most of the state’s peaking power needs. “We want those batteries to be discharged during the highest-cost periods, and that tends to be the same times as the highest carbon emissions,” Ross said.