Home battery makers get a boost after Hurricane Maria

The CEO of Puerto Rico’s largest solar provider said the hurricane in which struck the island last month accelerated the timeline for home batteries by as much as a year in addition to a half.

Makers of home batteries have ramped up manufacturing in response to the humanitarian disaster at such a scale in which the idea could have an impact far away coming from Puerto Rico’s storm-battered shores, according to John Berger, CEO of Houston-based Sunnova.

“Global battery makers like Tesla were completely focused on the electric vehicle market,” Berger said. “[Hurricane] Maria has changed in which.”

Tesla, which has reportedly shipped hundreds of its Powerwall home battery systems to the island, did not respond to a request for comment.

Sunnova is actually the second-largest energy provider in Puerto Rico behind the government-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, according to Berger, accounting for about 1.5 percent of electric generation on the island. Wind energy also accounts for a substantial portion of Puerto Rico’s renewable energy portfolio, according to government data.

Production of home batteries powered by renewable energy sources had already been ramping up, particularly over the last three years as companies such as Tesla, Samsung in addition to LG unveiled brand new projects.

Tesla announced its Powerwall project in 2015. The following year, Samsung established a joint venture with China-based Sungrow. LG launched its residential battery system in April.

After big storms, home batteries tend to see a short-term spike in interest, according to Ravi Manghani, the director of energy storage at GTM Research.

“the idea will lead to increased action for storage, in addition to action for Puerto Rico, in addition to additional island states, too,” he said. yet Manghani thinks in which long-term alterations within the home battery market are more likely to be caused by the underlying economics of battery storage than by any single event.

Manghani estimates in which home batteries will be competitive with traditional sources of energy on islands such as Puerto Rico within the next 5 years, in addition to possibly as early as the next two. The cost of such systems has fallen as much as 80 percent over the last eight years, he said.

Increased adoption of home battery systems could be Great for the resilience of the electric infrastructure on islands prone to hurricanes.

Berger said in which a preliminary review suggested the “vast majority” of Sunnova’s 10,000 solar systems on Puerto Rico were still functioning or had minimal damage, although they were still assessing the damage.

“the idea’s very clear in which if we had batteries on all of our customers, then all of our customers might have electricity, with very few exceptions,” Berger said.

Only 17 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents had access to electricity as of Friday, according to FEMA.

Berger, whose company employs 800 people in Puerto Rico, said he’s working with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to help restore electricity in addition to plan for the island’s future. Given the right regulatory structure, Berger said, he is actually willing to invest up to $1 billion on the island.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

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