Battery-backed solar breaks into grid long seen as off limits

by Brian Eckhouse and Chris Martin, Bloomberg

Solar is breaking into a power market that’s long been the domain of big, conventional generators. A key reason: batteries.

New England just approved 145 megawatts of solar systems to provide capacity to the local grid, according to a statement Wednesday, including some from Sunrun Inc. that are paired with batteries that store electricity to use after sundown. It’s the first time sunshine has been a significant participant in ISO New England Inc.’s annual forward capacity auction.

The auction has typically been dominated by plants that burn natural gas and coal, as well as hydroelectric dams and nuclear reactors — big generation facilities that can guarantee power at any moment. With prices for batteries coming down quickly, pairing them with solar panels and wind turbines is becoming more common. That addresses one of the big knocks on clean energy — that it’s not always available — and is helping it compete with conventional power plants.

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