The Hidden Cost of Solar + Energy Storage

Tom McCalmont, President McCalmont Engineering has been working on large solar projects for more than 15 years. The former CEO of Regrid Power, which in 2008 was purchased by Real Good Solar, his six-year old company McCalmont Engineering is fully dedicated to large solar and energy storage projects in California. “We do medium voltage interconnections, we do energy storage, we do NGOM meters, reverse-power relays, SCADA systems — so all of the things that people have problems with, we have expertise in,” he explained.

This expertise means that McCalmont understands what goes into interconnection and utility requirements for permitting and a little-known utility requirement called the NGOM, or “net-generation output meter” is making him very worried about the future of solar + energy storage projects, particularly in California.

What’s the Problem?

 “The issue that utilities are absolutely paranoid about is that people will use energy storage to somehow arbitrage energy rates,” explained McCalmont.

Because solar is net-metered and the owner is being paid at retail for exporting power to the grid, utilities are worried that if you add storage, you are going to sell all of your power at retail rates when they are high and buy it back when it is cheap, he explained. In other words, utilities are worried that system owners will sell more energy to the utility than their solar is actually producing because they could, in theory, draw down their energy storage system and put it on the grid.

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