Two-thirds of US solar installers do not offer storage, study finds

For all the glitzy product launches by the likes of Tesla and Sonnen, the solar+storage landscape of the U.S. is still largely shaped by what leading installers are – or aren’t – prepared to offer to customers, and a recent survey has found that around two-thirds do not currently include storage technology in their product portfolio.

EuPD Research’s latest PV Installer Survey USA 2015/16 revealed that only one-third of installers already offer energy storage to homeowners or businesses in the U.S. looking to adopt solar power. Of the two-thirds that do not, 38% said that current pricing of batteries impedes demand, meaning margins are too low for installers and the "technological maturity" of the systems on the market is not currently convincing.

However, the mood does appear to be shifting in favor of storage, with 26% of survey participants saying they hope to add storage products to their portfolio at some stage in 2016.

The survey asked 302 installers across 42 U.S. states for their opinion on the current state of the storage market. It found that Trojan is the most popular battery brand for solar+storage installations, whereas – unsurprisingly – Tesla’s Powerwall scored top marks for "unaided brand awareness", ie, the installers found they had to do very little marketing to consumers where this product was concerned.

For the majority of installers, the EuPD Research survey found, the most important metric to look for when opting for an energy storage brand is guarantee conditions and ease of installation. The Tesla Powerwall is regarded as a frontrunner on these two points, with installers in the U.S. and elsewhere reporting that installation was relatively quick and easy.

Cost, though, remains the most significant barrier to wider battery storage adoption, the survey said. A recent GTM Research study found that energy storage balance of systems (BOS) costs for grid-scale storage will fall 41% by 2020. Currently, such soft costs can comprise as much as 75% of the total system costs for short-duration storage systems, the study found, falling to below 25% for long-term storage.

Across all sectors, however, there is a growing trend for more storage globally, with IHS expecting as much as 900 MW of storage projects to come online in 2016. This would represent a doubling of the current cumulative installed storage capacity globally.

For the U.S. alone, GTM found that the storage market more than tripled in 2015, growing 241% – or 221 MW – for the year, spurred by pro-storage policies in many leading solar states, as well as incremental price decreases for leading battery technologies, particularly lithium-ion.