One year ago, Tabuchi Electric entered the North American market with a residential solar-plus-storage solution.
Now the Japanese solar inverter company’s U.S. arm, Tabuchi America, is putting $300 million behind the offering with GeoSmart SolPower, a loan and lease program with terms up to 20 years.
The program is a joint effort between Tabuchi and the nonprofit Electric & Gas Industries Association. EGIA offers financing solutions for contractors and manufacturers for renewable and efficiency offerings, and administers rebate programs for utility energy-efficiency programs. EGIA says its contractors have been looking for an all-in-one financing solution for solar-plus-storage.
EGIA will offer financing for the SolPower program, which will cover the solar PV system, Tabuchi smart inverters, and batteries. Customers can get financing for as little as 10 years at 1.99 percent and 20 years at 4.99 percent.
Loan term options are available in 10, 12, 15 and 20 years in 17 states, and leasing is available for the 20-year term in select states. There are various modules, monitoring systems, and racking systems that qualify under the SolPower financing program. Leases are only available in Hawaii, California and Arizona and cover the panels and installation, but not the Tabuchi systems. Tabuchi expects the loan product to be far more popular.
Tabuchi’s solar-plus-storage solution brings together a 5.5-kilowatt solar inverter with a bidirectional DC-to-DC battery power converter and a 10-kilowatt-hour Panasonic lithium-ion battery pack, which is managed using Geli’s software.
“The market is full of interest in solar-plus-storage, but high upfront costs and the complexity of seeking out separate solar and storage systems has been a roadblock for too long,” Harumi McClure, COO and president of Tabuchi America, said in a statement.
Interest is growing slowly in solar-plus-storage, but it is still in its infancy. Residential energy storage continues to make up just a small fraction of the energy deployments in the U.S., with under 3 megawatts deployed in the first half of 2016.
“Given the high cost of residential storage, the market has still been mostly limited to early adopters,” said Brett Simon, energy storage analyst with GTM Research. EGIA said in a statement it expects strong interest in the program.
Another potential roadblock to solar adoption and solar-plus-storage is local policies. Alterations to solar net energy metering policies in states can change the payback for solar, for better or worse, depending on how policies are altered.
Caps on solar interconnections, such as the ones in Hawaii, can also slow the sales cycle for solar installers. Installers are the primary way in which solar-plus-storage is sold, according to GTM Research.
Another hurdle to solar-plus-storage financing is that “while residential solar can be monetized through energy cost savings, there aren't similar easy-to-monetize value streams for residential storage customers,” according to Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage research for GTM Research.
Since it’s nearly impossible to get a return on investment for the value of resiliency that storage may offer a homeowner, “approaching storage financing through energy-efficiency types of loan programs is the more plausible route to finance storage capital investments, particularly in the residential segment,” added Manghani.
The offering is available today in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Ohio, Oregon, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Utah.
“The advent of a lease or loan option will likely allow Tabuchi access to customers who were previously on the fence about pursuing solar-plus-storage rather than solar-only,” said GTM Research's Simon.
Tabuchi anticipates that the energy prices and solar policies in these states, many of which are not residential solar leaders, will make them attractive targets for its new solar-plus-storage financing.
“As policies shift and the needs and benefits of residential solar change, storage will be an increasingly attractive option for making the most of solar investments,” said Daniel Hill, director of sales and marketing for Tabuchi.
But with top solar states such as New York, Massachusetts and Maryland missing from the list, it will be interesting to see where Tabuchi can entice customers to invest in storage-plus-storage, and whether its choice of states will give it a first-mover advantage in years to come.
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