Findings from a new report by Clean Energy Group show that solar combined with energy storage systems (solar+storage) can protect affordable housing developments during power outages and create long-term savings and revenue opportunities. 

Resilience for Free: How Solar+Storage Could Protect Multifamily Affordable Housing From Power Outages at Little or No Net Cost is the first-of-its kind analysis on how solar and battery storage technologies can benefit low-income communities and their vulnerable residents.

The report, which is part of a multi-year effort for the Resilient Power Project by Clean Energy Group and Meridian Institute, comes three years after Superstorm Sandy knocked out power to more than 8 million people on the East Coast.

“Millions of people during Sandy lost power, even those folks who have solar panels,” says co-author Lewis Milford, president of Clean Energy Group. “If you have storage connected to your [solar panels], you can generate power. It’s a very big technological advance to protect people who may need the power the most, such as the elderly and disabled in low-income housing.”

A national advocacy nonprofit focused on clean energy and climate change, Clean Energy Group used project data for buildings in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., to examine the financial case for installing solar+storage technologies and how it can serve public needs.

With the right market structures and incentives, the report finds that solar+storage can provide an economic return that’s on par with other energy-efficiency or stand-alone solar features. With the addition of battery storage systems, an affordable housing development could also see savings on both consumption and utility demand charges as well as earn potential revenue in markets where grid services can be provided. 

One of the key takeaways from the report is that the systems today will pay for themselves over the lifetime of the project. Milford adds that battery storage today is the most expensive it will be, and the costs will continue to decline as the technology evolves.

Project manager and report co-author Seth Mullendore also says he expects to see more markets develop incentives and structures that will improve the economics.

“This makes economic sense today; the technologies are there. We encourage affordable housing developers to take a look,” Milford says. “We think this is going to be the next trend in clean energy development in affordable housing.”

The nonprofit has small grants available to help developers determine if the solar+storage systems make economic and technical sense for them. The nonprofit also will be hosting a webinar on the report on Oct. 29.