Calcom Blog


March 30, 2018


As California continues to lead the nation in solar installations, the CalCom Solar team has found our conversations in the agribusiness and water sectors shifting to the next phase of energy efficiency and cost savings: battery storage.

In this post, we will discuss the growing use of battery technology, also known as an Energy Storage System (ESS), as part of new or existing solar installations, how the technology can save your business or public agency real dollars, and how best to fund a new project or retrofit with an ESS (including taking advantage of all eligible incentives and rebates).

Understanding Demand Charges

The driving force for ESS installations is utility demand charges. Demand charges are typically based on the highest average electricity usage within a defined time interval (usually 15 minutes) during your billing period. This demand charge rate is the ‘high water mark’ grid demand in a given month and establishes your demand charge rate for the entire month. So, turning on heavy machinery or HVAC even for 15 minutes can increase your demand charge for the whole month. These demand charges often represent a whopping 30%–70% of a commercial electric bill. (NREL)

Why Battery Storage + Solar Works for Agriculture and Water Districts

When an ESS is installed alongside a PV system as part of a behind-the-meter installation, your system has the ability to respond quickly and deliver power when needed most. This is how the battery typically provides the most value—through demand charge management and demand response. In short, when your facility has a spike in demand (aka the ‘high water mark’), either through increased energy use such as seasonal activities like harvesting or processing, or an uptick in water needs, for example, strategically deployed energy via an ESS can lower this demand charge, producing potentially thousands of dollars in savings.

The chart below, created by the Clean Energy Group, a nonprofit research firm, explains how peak demand charges can be mitigated using ESS.

The benefits of ESS go beyond just extra savings. An ESS can help provide the energy your agribusiness or water agency relies on through both resiliency and by minimizing dependence on the grid – which as we’ve seen in California can be susceptible to outages, downtime for grid maintenance, and inclement weather. If your business or agency needs to have uninterrupted power for activities such as refrigeration, time-sensitive distribution, or even safety compliance – an ESS can help ensure these activities continue during outages, ensuring your revenue stream or delivery of services.

Financing Options for Your Energy Storage System

Whether you purchase your ESS or decide to take advantage of a lease or power purchase agreement (PPA), there are a number of financing opportunities that can make an ESS system work for your business or agency.

Most notably, California recently reopened its Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). This rebate program can offset the cost of installing an ESS with your solar array. The SGIP program provides a cash rebate equal to approximately 35% of the battery costs, whether it’s on a new solar + storage project or an existing solar array. Even better, with funds offered through the SGIP Equity Budget, local government agencies, educational institutions, non-profits, and small businesses in qualifying areas are eligible to take advantage of the rebate.

The SGIP can be utilized along with a number of other eligible incentives and rebates. This includes the ITC 30% tax credit (and 5 accelerated MACRS schedule). With a combination of these incentives and rebates, an agribusiness or water agency could see assistance of 10-15 cents on the dollar, easily amounting to many thousands of dollars on a large ESS.

Though some of these rebate applications can be time-consuming, CalCom Solar’s experts will work directly with you to ensure you take advantage of all eligible incentives and maximize the ROI of your project.

Finding the Right Energy Solution For You

When you are ready to talk battery storage, CalCom Solar has the knowledge and experience to assess its potential for your particular needs. As the #1 commercial solar installer in PG&E’s service area, we have established a track record of high ROI installations by an understanding of our customers’ needs and deploying the right technology solution for each situation.

CalCom Solar prides itself on its high performing solar energy systems, and this level of commitment applies to ESS installations as well. As our CEO Dylan Dupre shared in a letter to customers in October of last year, integrating storage with a solar PV system can create immediate savings, and can give you peace of mind that your operations are not prone to demand spike charges or grid outages.

CalCom Solar’s commitment to our customers will give you confidence that all stages of your ESS and solar PV integration journey will exceed your expectations – from planning to installation, to proactively monitoring of your system using our VistaWatt System.

To find out how your agribusiness or water district can maximize your energy savings with an EES, contact