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Senate committee backs $5 million program to boost battery storage for renewables

In the past 10 years, Utah’s installed solar has quadrupled with thousands of families and businesses going solar. Adobe Stock

SALT LAKE CITY — A proposal before Utah legislators to incentivize the purchase of battery storage systems for solar- or wind-powered energy systems would be a boon for those who want to become energy independent while lowering their energy carbon footprint.

On Monday, a legislative committee backed a bill sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, that would seed just such a program with $5 million. The proposed legislation, SB78, mirrors an effort Fillmore launched in the 2019 session that made it through the Senate and a House committee, but failed to get a vote on the House floor.

Besides providing power backup in homes or businesses, increased use of battery storage systems may also sow the first seeds of a paradigm shift where a large network of micropower producers could fundamentally change the dynamic of the energy industry.

“Energy independence is something worth pushing for,” Fillmore told members of the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee. “The technology to do this is on its way and ... would allow us to capitalize on that and really be a national leader.”

The proposal seeks to create a $5 million grant fund from which individuals could secure up to $7,500 and business owners up to $100,000 in offsets for the purchase of a battery storage system that is fed by a renewable power source, like solar panels or a micro wind plant. While costs related to large-scale battery storage has been driven down by ongoing innovation in industries like electric vehicle manufacturing, the price for a system that could run a typical household still runs $15,000-$25,000 for a typical home.

Ryan Evans, president of the Utah Solar Power Association, told committee members that systems that pair renewable sources with battery storage would help propel Utahns toward energy independence and emergency preparedness while also making improvements to the state’s air quality.

“I think that ... this bill is important because it’s seeding the market, not picking winners or losers,” Evans said. “Energy storage is not where we want it to be in Utah.”

The committee passed SB78 on a 6-1 vote and the proposal now heads to the full Senate for further consideration.