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Solar installer to sell 10-hour home backup battery on LI

SunRun’s offering, while not the first backup battery offered here, could be the first large-scale implementation.

In-home battery being offered by SunRun on Long

In-home battery being offered by SunRun on Long Island that would provide solar power & battery backup during an outage. Photo Credit: SunRun Inc.

Solar installer SunRun Inc. of San Francisco is introducing a home-battery service to Long Island that it says will provide up to 10 hours of backup power during outages, while storing power for use during high-cost electric periods.

The BrightBox battery system comes with a “smart” device that manages when it’s recharged from solar panels to help reduce electric costs. SunRun customers can buy it for between $6,500 and $8,000, depending on whether they bought or leased their solar system. It comes with either a 10-year product warranty or a 20-year full-service plan.

SunRun is not the first company to market a battery backup on Long Island, but this could be the first large-scale implementation.

EmPower Solar of Island Park is working with Tesla, the electric-car maker that owns national solar installer and panel maker SolarCity, to offer that company’s Powerwall storage system, which provides up to 30 hours of off-grid energy, said David Schieren, EmPower’s chief executive. The company has 20 systems on order, he said. Like SunRun’s BrightBox, the unit automatically turns on if the grid goes down, keeping homes powered “without interruption,” Schieren said.

SunRun said it has already rolled out its product in California and Hawaii and provided it during the recent islandwide power outage in Puerto Rico.

Lynn Jurich, co-founder and chief executive of SunRun, which installs 85 percent of its systems using a model in which customers do not own their solar panels but lease them, said Long Island was viewed as a ripe sales market because events like superstorm Sandy made customers keenly aware of the costs and inconveniences of prolonged power outages.

“Knowing you’ll have power when a storm rolls through is a new value proposition,” she said.

But another big Long Island solar installer, SUNation Solar Systems of Ronkonkoma, isn’t as bullish about batteries, at least for now. Co-founder Mike Bailis said the units are too costly and don’t store enough power. “The benefit doesn’t justify the cost,” he said.

LIPA offers special time-of-use rates that can be used to lower energy costs by operating a home from the battery when grid-energy rates are highest, during peak hours.

PSEG spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said Long Island customers are “free to apply for interconnection [to the LIPA grid] using a BrightBox, and they would be eligible for net metering, as long as solar is included” with the battery. Net metering lets customers bank excess energy created by their solar panels.

Solar systems as a rule do not power homes during Long Island outages because of a LIPA system feature meant to protect crews working on power lines during an outage. The new battery systems isolate a home’s energy system by cutting off the grid connection, allowing the systems to operate safely to power homes during an outage, SunRun said.

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