With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) earlier this month, the United States made the most sizable investment in achieving its climate goals to date. Regardless of the political context or motivations, one thing is clear: the biggest beneficiary of the act could be businesses that rely on portable power solutions.

Before the IRA, business owners could only take advantage of a narrow tax credit applied to energy storage when connected to a solar-capture system. Moving forward, energy storage (regardless of charging method) now qualifies for a substantial incentive.

The IRA now provides a 30% tax credit for business-owned battery systems above 5 kWh. For reference, the vast majority of Joule Case food truck customers purchase 12-18 kWh of energy storage. This incentive took effect retroactively on January 1, 2022. This means that any system that has been purchased and deployed this year benefits. Business owners can claim this credit on installed battery systems through 2033. The credit begins to sunset in 2034, dropping to 22.5%, and then to 15% in 2035 and down to 0% in 2036.

Many Joule Case customers have already been able to take advantage of tax credits because they were able to link their battery storage to solar. Clearly, not all locations and applications have that luxury (e.g. food carts with no space to install solar panels), resulting in frustration that efforts to reduce carbon emissions weren't similarly rewarded. Now, there is no difference.

When compared to other portable power options like generators, a battery system is a substantially cheaper alternative in the long term. This new tax credit makes the return on investment even better and reduces the upfront sticker shock of the side-by-side comparison to generators.

If you are interested in receiving a free, no-commitment energy cost analysis, we're ready to help!


Disclaimer: We are experts at advanced power systems—not law and taxation. We highly recommend consulting your attorney and accountant to understand how to fully take advantage of the tax incentives that might be available. This article does not constitute professional tax advice or other professional financial guidance and should not be used as the only source of information when making purchasing, investment, or tax decisions.

Dronedek Announces Partnership with Joule Case to Ensure Eco-friendly, Rugged & Reliable Power for its Smart Mailboxes

INDIANAPOLIS – July 11, 2022 – Dronedek, known for its “mailbox of the future” that will provide secure deposit of autonomously and traditionally delivered packages, today announced a partnership with Joule Case to provide reliable, emissions-free battery power to the units.

“We met the Joule Case team at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year and were impressed with their sustainability mission as well as the reliability of their batteries – even in an outdoor setting where weather can wreak havoc,” said Dronedek CEO, Dan O’Toole. “We align well and couldn’t be more excited to partner with Joule Case.”

Based in Seattle, Wash., Joule Case is leading the green revolution with a next generation battery technology that can silently power anything from food trucks to the main stage to EV fleets without the toxic fumes and noise produced by traditional gas-powered generators. Joule Case battery systems are energy-agnostic and capable of storing energy from solar, wind and other renewable sources as well as traditional energy inputs. 

Joule Case has just launched a new investment round, seeking an additional $5 million to fuel continued growth and expansion into new markets where clean, safe and cost-efficient renewable power is a strategic priority and an ideal match with the company’s portable, emission-free energy storage expertise and product line. 

“We noticed Dronedek because of its incredible fundraising record and knew we could help them with long-term power reliability, regardless of location,” said Joule Case CEO James Wagoner.

“Our partnerships are leading the way when it comes to helping the planet while also improving consumers’ lives,” O’Toole said. 

Want to invest in Joule Case? Join our Community Round on Wefunder!

About Dronedek: Dronedek is one of the first companies in the world to focus on package security for traditional and autonomous delivery methods. Designed to accept drone delivery, the app-controlled smart mailbox also accepts traditional mail delivery and is destined to become an everyday utility service like power or water. The device will keep packages hot or cold; will alert users to package arrival; recharge drones; and even serve as an emergency alert. Learn more at www.dronedek.com. See videos at Dronedek: The Next Generation Mailbox and New Dronedek Smart Receptacle

Media contact: Cheryl Reed at 317-446-5240

About Joule Case Inc: Joule Case provides power where you need it when you need it, with flexible, patented battery systems that easily scale for a variety of power applications. The company was started in a Boise, Idaho garage by James Wagoner and Alex Livingston, fueled by their shared passion to enable clean and renewable energy to reach more people. They have spent years developing the unique stackable, portable, scalable, easy-to-use battery system now powering live events, food trucks and several other applications across the United States. The flexibility and adaptability of Joule Case systems can be combined together to make larger battery systems with minimal engineering and installation time.

Media Contact: Chad Biggs at [email protected]

Solidifying Joule Case's expertise and leadership in the development of innovative battery systems, President Alex Livingston and CTO Dave DeMuro have been selected to speak and present at The Battery Show, September 13-15, 2022 in Novi, MI.

The Battery Show is a leading advanced battery and electric vehicle technology conference that brings together engineers, business leaders, top-industry companies, and innovative thinkers to discover ground-breaking products and create powerful solutions for the future.

Livingston will present a case study on how Joule Case will help transform the future of fuel stations. By adding battery systems and solar panels to their infrastructure, fuel stations can remain relevant and useful to customers as they transition to electric vehicles. With the switch to renewable energy, these updated stations will also help alleviate the strain on the power grid that electric vehicles will bring. You can read more about our vision for the future of fuel stations here.

DeMuro, a leading authority in battery management systems, will take the stage alongside executives from Dell, Intel, and Microsoft to discuss Optimising Fast Charge for Consumer Batteries. During this panel discussion, these experts will outline solutions for delivering fast and full battery charging with minimal battery degradation, while considering for safety, speed, and thermal issues.

For more information, please visit https://www.thebatteryshow.com/.

About Alex Livingston

President @ Joule Case

For over 15 years, Alex has been responsible for top to bottom product development, both software and hardware. Alex wrote his senior thesis on distributed renewable energy storage systems and built his own electric vehicle in 2007. This ultimately led to the creation of his first battery startup, R2EV, which sought to revolutionize electric vehicles. An entrepreneur at heart and spirit, he holds multiple patents, including his latest entitled "Modularized ESS And Power Distribution System" and is once again focused on creating a revolution—this time by unlocking the possibilities of batteries to help supplement the massive power demands of electric vehicles on centralized power grids.

About Dave DeMuro

Chief Technology Officer @ Joule Case

Dave DeMuro is an innovative and analytical electrical engineer and MBA with more than 30 years of experience in consumer product development at Fortune 50 companies, including Apple and Motorola. He holds 17 U.S. patents, principally in the area of LiIon batteries and power management.

On May 21st, Joule Case partnered with the Southern Idaho Food Truck Association to power the inaugural Food Truck Feastival.

This was the largest food truck rally ever in the state of Idaho with 18 trucks participating—and we turned them all into electric food trucks—all powered by clean Joule Case batteries! This may also have been the largest food truck rally powered by batteries in the World. We’re still checking on that, but we’ve never heard of it before…

Hosted by the Boise Hawks at Memorial Stadium, over 2,700 guests picked the food trucks clean—they were completely sold out by the end of the event. In addition to the 18 food trucks, there was a beer garden and a live music stage that featured three bands. 

Joule Case provided power for all food trucks for the entire duration of the event. Over 5 hours of clean, quiet, generator-free power. Grid-scale needs like this present an opportunity for us to deploy our 540kWh battery trailer that we affectionately call ‘Bertha’. As you can imagine, not all food trucks are the same. Each truck, with different needs and built by different people, have a variety of power connections that our team needed to account for. For example, six of the trucks required 50 Amps high power, while the others required 30 Amps. 

Overall, the logistical hurdles were handled in stride by our team of experts and the operators were thrilled:

“We routinely trip circuit breakers when getting shore power from breweries. Your power had no issues!” – Rhett Atagi, Bochi Bochi

“I could hear the music! It was actually kind of eerie to have all of these trucks and no generators!” – Christine Hummer, Fusion Frites

We couldn't be more excited to continue to grow the brand, it's events like these that really help spread awareness while also being a great experience!

To learn more about how Joule Case can power your food truck, click here!

Initial round exceeds $1.1 million from 900+ investors as demand spikes for mobile energy storage 

Seattle, Wash. (May 16, 2022) – Following a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised $1,127,379 and attracted 920 investors, Joule Case is launching a new $4M round on Wefunder to raise a total of $5M. This round will enable Joule Case to expand into new markets where clean, safe, and cost-efficient renewable power is a strategic priority and an ideal match with the company’s portable, emission-free energy storage expertise and product line.

"We appreciate everyone who has believed in us to date and hope you share our excitement about the opportunities ahead and the impressive sales growth we’re experiencing this year," said James Wagoner, CEO, Joule Case. “There is tremendous momentum as we further solidify our footprint in events and the food truck space and engage new and dynamic markets where flexibility, scalability and emission-free energy sources will be in demand for years to come.”

One new market being pursued by Joule Case includes mobile brand activations, a natural extension of the live event space. As brands seek to engage their audiences where they are, Joule Case’s experience with powering large parts of Camp EDC for Insomniac and food trucks, multiple stages and several other power applications at Treefort MusicFest reinforces its capabilities as a trusted partner.

The company’s latest patent creates a fully functional energy supply which can be mobilized to meet growing energy needs such as Level 3 EV chargers at fuel stations, range extenders for mobile fleets and remote power demands for grid-independent energy needs. It also creates a path for distributed energy storage for grid backup and other purposes, where location-specific demands can be better served. 

“Collectively we are all seeing how critical power is to everyday life and how tenuous this resource is with an aging grid that is woefully outdated in both model and capacity, challenged by a disparate mix of energy sources and increasingly threatened by natural disasters,” continued Wagoner. “Power is no longer a nice to have, it’s a need to have and location is a huge part of that need. Providing power when and where you need it is more important than ever, and we know how to deliver on that promise.”

About Joule Case Inc.

Joule Case provides power where you need it when you need it, with flexible, patented battery systems that easily scale for a variety of power applications. The company was started in a Boise, Idaho garage by James Wagoner and Alex Livingston, fueled by their shared passion to enable clean and renewable energy to reach more people. They have spent years developing the unique stackable, portable, scalable, easy-to-use battery system now powering live events, food trucks and several other applications across the United States. The flexibility and adaptability of Joule Case systems can be combined together to make larger battery systems with minimal engineering and installation time.

Media Contact

Chad Biggs
Red Sky
[email protected]
208.996.0710

At the turn of the 21st century, solar energy technology existed but it was far off and still futuristic. In fact, it wasn’t until 2010 or so that solar panels started to pop up on the rooftops of homes and businesses more noticeably and in utility-scale solar farms, and then ultimately seeing exponential growth. Driven by solar installation prices that are about three times cheaper than they were in 2010 in the residential sector and almost more than eight times cheaper in the utility sector, falling from  solar capacity has grown from a blip on the radar (less than 0.1% of total generation) to a total 2021 capacity of over 94 Gigawatts (GW).

As solar programs have sought to grow, the understood reality has been that the key to unlocking even more solar installations is energy storage. From the Duck Curve to intermittency, many of the most notable hurdles in the world of solar energy can be solved if the power generated by the sun could be efficiently and affordable stored  to ensure that energy could be used when and where it’s most needed. The energy storage sector, however, has been slower than solar to grow in past years, but that seems poised to change with falling battery prices poised to define the next decade.

Experts predict U.S. grid-scale storage capacity is set to grow by five times by mid-century, while the optimal pairing of solar + storage has been identified as the future of energy independence and reliability for homes, businesses, and even microgrids. For example, of the 14.5 GW of utility-scale battery storage in the U.S. pipeline from 2021 to 2024, 9.4 GW (65%) are set to be paired directly with solar generation.

But what’s driving this push towards solar + storage? And what are the opportunities missed when solar generation occurs without battery backup for it?

Utility Bill Savings

The first reason that energy storage as a partner of solar power is gaining favor is the most direct and obvious, but also the most motivating: savings on energy costs. With solar power installed on a home or business without batteries, the only actions the customers can take is to consume the solar power or to send it back to the grid (in regions that allow net metering). That’s the only flexibility offered, and because solar panels aren’t always producing at the time when customers most need energy, the amount generation cuts into power demand for the building can be suboptimal. For example, peak power usage often occurs during late afternoon and early evening, the time when the sun is not at its peak so solar generation is falling.

To try and balance this misalignment between solar supply and consumer demand, utilities often create specific rate structures that encourage consumption during hours where solar is plentiful and charging more during those peak hours. But again, the normal customer can only have the flexibility to use energy or not at a given time, there’s not much more they can do to adjust.

That all changes, though, when these solar customers also invest in battery storage!

When these solar installations are paired with energy storage, it allows those buildings to over generate from their solar panels during the day to charge up the batteries, only to tap into that energy later during the day when demand is peaking and energy costs are highest. Customers with these time-variable rates can utilize solar + storage to reduce their energy costs, all unlocked thanks to the availability of batteries. Study finds that intelligent on-site energy arbitrage like this allows real customers to unlock a further 30% of energy bill savings.

Further, consider the momentum in the world of tiny homes, where homes require less than 10% of the power of an average home and which have seen annual builds in some regions grow by as much as 200%. These homes can readily have their owners see 100% energy bill savings with proper installation of solar plus storage given their low energy needs, though that would be impossible without energy storage to ensure that power was available at night and when the sun wasn’t shining.

Further Decarbonization

Homes and businesses that invest in solar installations are often thrilled by their economic benefits, but often these are decision-makers who are also motivated by the desire to contribute to the clean energy future. Solar panels are one of the most impactful and visible ways that a building can demonstrate its commitment to greenhouse gas reductions, helping to decarbonize the local area.

Like the dollars and cents of it all, the amount of emission reductions possible with a solar installation is only enhanced when paired with energy storage. And even better: the patterns and actions such customers can and should take to achieve these goals mirror the exact same actions as the ones they should use when simply trying to save money. By using solar panels to charge their on-site batteries during the middle of the day, and then using that energy once the sun goes down, these customers can have 100% renewable energy running their systems for a much greater portion of the day. A customer with solar panels but no batteries is at the whim of the sun’s pattern and the cloud cover to know when they can use carbon-free energy, but the optimized solar+storage customer can carefully plan how to use solar energy for their needs well into the night.

Even better, these actions aren’t just reducing the carbon footprint of the home or business with this solar+storage installation, but on a grid-wide level those customers are also moving the needle of energy markets to allow for new large-scale renewables to come onto the grid. The more a building relies on its own energy generation, the more transmission capacity and power consumption demand is met by new utility-scale solar, wind, and other renewable projects. And these capabilities are part of the reason that the Solar Energy Industry Association finds that the long-term success of solar energy and its ability to scale beyond 20% of the grid mix relies wholly on the cost-effective integration of batteries and other energy storage.

Unlocking Additional Capabilities

Beyond the main drivers of cost and sustainability, those who suitably invest in batteries to pair with their solar systems will enjoy a suite of additional capabilities and benefits for their trouble.

Enhanced Reliability

First, and core to the energy storage experience, is the increase to on-site energy reliability. When a grid outage occurs, customers are typically out of luck when it comes to keeping those lights on. In some areas where outages are more frequent (such as hurricane-prone Florida or wildfire country in California), households and businesses may invest in backup diesel generators so they can keep the lights on when the power providers cannot. Given how expensive, loud, inconvenient, and dirty these generators are just goes to show how valuable that reliability of backup energy is to these customers. But energy storage, especially when paired with solar panels, can provide a much preferable backup energy solution. Batteries can always be plugged into the house, they don’t require a large footprint, and they don’t require the acquisition of gasoline or other fuels because a rooftop’s solar panels will continue to generate even when the grid goes down.

Mobile Energy Capabilities

Another benefit of energy storage, especially as batteries become more modular and mobile like Joule Case solutions, is the ability to take your clean energy with you. Whether it’s for camping, for running tools out in the yard or on the worksite, or to put on outdoor parties and events away from electrical outlets, homes with solar and mobile batteries can charge up their batteries with free energy from the sun and then use that electricity for their power needs, wherever they happen to be. Compare that with the standard practice otherwise, which once again is expensive and polluting diesel generators, and the benefits become even clearer.

What’s the Motivation to Go Green

Renewable energy, environmentally-friendly business practices, and going green: you can nary turn on a television or open a newspaper without hearing about these types of interconnected sustainability goals. But for those looking to change the world, making sure this green revolution becomes reality and not just another buzzword is paramount.

In the early days of climate action, these ideas were less mainstream and it was the die-hard environmentalist crowds that focused on them. However, today’s landscape of the ‘green revolution’ includes a refreshingly wide spectrum of players:

The trend indicated by these data points is clear: taking action towards a sustainable future can no longer be considered niche, and treating green action as a fad is short-sighted. Rather, embracing sustainability is here to stay. And with good reason, as each year we are faced with climate change realities of greater severity and frequency: major weather storms, climate migration, financial disaster, national security concerns, and more.

Put them together and this collection of impacts spell out that it doesn’t matter what motivation is chosen because we’re seeing little remaining ‘opposition’ to embracing sustainability. Rather, the world has come to an agreement that these issues are critical, even existential, to address today and in the future.

Why Has Sustainable Action to Date Not Been Sufficient?

So if we’ve reached the rare collective agreement we need sustainability now, why does it seem that the necessary actions keep getting stalled? As noted, early pushes towards green and sustainable action were driven not necessarily by a mainstream push, but rather by early and progressive advocates who recognized the importance of this shift in mentality. To embrace such revolutionary actions also required acknowledgment of where the technologies and their implementations still fell short at that time in their development. And to be clear, skeptics had certain valid arguments on their side about why a full-blown adoption of the green revolution was not yet ready for primetime:

But in many areas, these shortcomings are representative of the past, while in 2022 and beyond we’re approaching a new paradigm. Across energy systems, technology has rapidly advanced, motivations have strengthened, and previously unavailable opportunities abound.

That said, those who are pushing the green revolution still note the residual knowledge gap. More than ever, people want to embrace green and sustainable technology, but they still don’t know-how. They are confused about what the best approach for them would be, and they may even become paralyzed with the rapidly expanding choices for green action they have today and the anxiety of making suboptimal choices may stop them from acting at all.

Ask someone on the street, though, the best way they can be a part of the green revolution, and you’ll hear a wide variety of answers, but one will come up time and again: people believe they can integrate solar panels into their home as an optimal solution. Indeed, rooftop solar energy is critical and installation rates continue to climb. Current forecasts predict that the number of Americans with solar on their homes is poised to triple by the end of the decade.

This trend represents tremendous progress and should be celebrated. That said, the installation of rooftop solar panels alone is not worthy of a ‘mission accomplished’ pronouncement. This fact is especially true when the rebound effect comes into play when people may start to waste more energy because they see doing so as having a lower impact given their solar-generation systems. This reality highlights a shortcoming in knowledge that still persists, particularly as the vast majority of residential solar does not get paired with energy storage. Given the ability of residential storage to multiply the impact of residential solar, this knowledge gap actually turns into a notable efficiency and effectiveness gap. That’s where lower barrier energy storage technology, like Joule Case’s modular and interchangeable battery solutions, can make a huge difference. The implementation of energy storage, along with solar or other energy technologies, definitively represents a lynchpin that’s key to unlocking a new paradigm across energy systems for the real green revolution: the shift towards decentralized energy.

What is Decentralization?

For most of our lives, existing energy systems have remained notably similar to those put into place in the days of Thomas Edison: energy is generated at centralized, large-scale power plants and then transmitted for miles and miles via the grid system to where it is ultimately consumed.

In the early days of the grid, this centralized arrangement was the only option to electrify the country, since small-scale generation technologies weren’t affordable or practical, and larger power plants were needed for the economies of scale to make electric power systems financially accessible. That said, the continued use of the centralized power generation model comes with notable inherent weaknesses that persist to this day:

But it’s 2022 and energy consumers don’t have to simply accept these shortcomings! And that shift is thanks to advancing technology allowing smaller generation sources being built closer to the point of consumption, whether via on-site generation or even just smaller solar and wind farms distributed more evenly across the grid. The shorter the distance between generation and consumption, the less the above shortcomings actually impact each end user. This pattern toward more distributed energy generation is known as Decentralization, and it’s a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.

The advent of this decentralized technology is creating new opportunities in flexibility and adaptation for power systems, opportunities that naturally arrive when (for the first time) we can decouple energy consumption from where and when that energy is first generated. Energy storage is the key that makes decentralization work. Typically, that centralized energy must be generated when it’s anticipated it will be needed, but if that can instead be shifted to generating energy whenever it’s convenient to do so and then storing it until energy is most needed, greater efficiency will be achieved.

In a way, fossil fuels are an ancient form of this mobility in time and location of energy, as oil and gas are really just an energy storage tool that takes energy transferred from the sun to ancient life, which was eventually turned into fossil fuels that can then millions of years be later put into our cars and generators. We moved the energy from those ancient times until we needed them at the gas pump today. Traditionally, electricity hasn’t been open to this decoupling. The mobility and deployability of petroleum products are actually a key reason why the gas car won out over the electric car in the days of Henry Ford. But battery technology is the decentralized technology that is key to putting us in charge of this energy mobility, and instead of waiting millions of years for fossil fuels to be developed, we can control the short- or long-term needs of moving energy through time and locations.

Batteries are the go-to tool to tap into electric power on a mobile basis, which has obviously been around for a while in the form of AA batteries in consumer electronics, cell phone or laptop batteries, and the like. But those battery applications have traditionally been smaller scale and less practical for scaling up. In future grid-scale energy systems, though, energy storage is the key to unlocking decoupling for the electric power industry, and the technology is finally becoming ready for this shift (case in point: electric vehicles are biting back now!). In this way, one can think about batteries as similar in function to the barrel of oil, as unintuitive as that may first sound: Batteries allow the users to take a tangible, physical piece of energy and move it from one location at one time to where and when it’s most useful. Suddenly, the residential energy consumer is reimagined: they can become the prosumer, and with that shift, their relationship with energy is forever changed.

“Who is a Prosumer? Prosumers are growing in the energy space as more Americans generate their own power from distributed energy resources. This is most often accomplished through rooftop solar panels and electric vehicles. Gone are the days when electricity consumption was a one-way street. Today’s electric grid is blurring the lines between power generation and consumption. “
- U.S. Department of Energy

The Role Energy Storage Plays in this Decentralization

According to the typical headlines, the main characters of the green revolution are renewable energy sources: offshore wind farms, rooftop solar panels, and more. However, all the renewable energy generation that money can buy will only do so much to decarbonize the grid because of the inherent flaw of most renewables: they are intermittent.

Whereas coal, gas, and even nuclear energy are dispatchable, meaning they can be called upon to generate a given amount of electricity on command (in many cases using on-site storage of fuel to ensure no interruption of supply), solar panels cannot generate at nighttime or during cloudy days, and wind turbines sit idle when the wind doesn’t blow. The ability of dispatchable fossil fuel sources to be turned on at the snap of the finger has long been an advantage with which renewable energy couldn’t compete. In the electric power industry, outages and downtime are wholly unacceptable. So if the whole grid was solely connected to solar panels and nothing else, we’d be completely dependent on the weather with no recourse for when clouds came through (not to mention night time!).

Intermittency works in the other way as well— when solar and wind energy resources are generating, that power must be transmitted somewhere immediately or it will be wasted (whether the grid had planned on that electricity availability or not). Or, at least, that’s been the modus operandi of renewables before energy storage technology became affordable and ubiquitous. Batteries have since become the lynchpin that truly unlocks renewables: allowing excess generation to be stored for later, while also allowing for renewable energy sources to power grid needs even during times when intermittency interrupts the generation.

These realities help explain why the decentralized energy revolution isn’t just about renewable generation, but rather it must come along with decentralized energy storage as well. But why is this shift to more prevalent energy storage technology happening now?

Notably, the available energy storage technology had previously been too limited, with batteries being rather expensive, inefficient, bulky, and non-versatile. Recently, though, technological advancement has allowed for new opportunities, such as the interoperability and flexibility from an innovation like Joule Case, flipping the script and making energy storage a viable option for energy consumers across the grid.

Looking holistically at these technologies, the parallel trends of renewable generation and energy storage are creating momentum towards technological convergence for users. While independent solar systems were the first to hit the residential market, it’s not becoming less and less common for homes to install solar panels without battery storage. Additionally, the advent of intelligent technologies, such as smart meters and smart thermostats, are being readily coupled into these packages as well, allowing homeowners to embrace a fully integrated smart energy system.  

In fact, the availability of such battery technology has opened up a newly equitable world for everyday energy users. The people who, over the past few decades, have improved their levels of energy independence and resilience through rooftop solar have exclusively been households that were:

  1. Homeowners,
  2. Able to afford the high upfront capital costs of solar systems, and
  3. Living in a home with a non-shaded rooftop facing in the correct direction to generate solar energy.

The practical percentage of people who could check off each of the above has always been rather small, estimated to be around 20% in the United States, with minority groups at a measurable disadvantage for the ability to deploy rooftop solar.  As such, most Americans have been unable to access backup electricity when the power goes out (without the use of expensive and dirty gas generators) and relative relief from spiking utility prices like those seen during the 2021 winter storm in Texas

However, technology is evolving, and access to modular, affordable, and flexible energy storage brings the first taste of these advantages to new households, regardless of whether they are homeowners, what direction their rooftop faces, or if they have the amount of capital on hand for a full solar system. Energy storage can allow anyone to receive power (whether from the grid, from solar panels, or elsewhere), and store it to be used where and when they need it. That functionality offers the resilience and reliability previously only afforded to those rooftop solar owners, along with a multitude of other benefits.

Key Benefits to Owners of Decentralized Energy Storage

As noted previously, the consumer is turning into a prosumer. In many ways, the power system of today is already ‘not your parents’ energy industry,’ no less Thomas Edison’s! When energy storage solutions unlock flexibility for everyone equally, the opportunities presented include the following:  

Time of Use Pricing

Because renewable generation is so intrinsically tied to weather, the availability of this clean energy ebbs and flows during the day. Similarly, demand varies over the course of the day. As such, grid operators will note times when energy supply greatly outpaces the need for it (e.g., mid-day when solar generation is high but energy consumption plateaus in the middle of the work day), as well as times known as ‘peak demand’ where the grid is often strained to have sufficient energy supplies to meet demand (e.g., early evening hours when solar panels are no longer generating and people are returning home from work and using energy-intensive appliances). Energy insiders recognize this as the fowl-inspired Duck Curve.

With decentralized energy storage technologies at the fingertips of consumers (or, rather, prosumers!), these wise energy stakeholders can now participate in new opportunities, such as variable pricing utility rates. Under such programs, utilities will vary their rates so that they are lower during times when supply exceeds demand, raising them to premium rates during peak demand hours. As such, these prosumers can charge their batteries during mid-day while paying low rates and then tap into those fully charged batteries to fuel the evening energy needs rather than pay the higher prices reflecting the grid strain. By planning ahead, consumers with personal decentralized energy storage can achieve new levels of resilience, energy independence, and overall reduced power bills— advantages that were previously only accessible to high-income homes that had installed solar panels.

Demand response

As noted by the U.S. Department of Energy:

“Demand response provides an opportunity for consumers to play a significant role in the operation of the electric grid by reducing or shifting their electricity usage during peak periods in response to time-based rates or other forms of financial incentives.

While time-of-use rates may be considered a type of demand response, some more common demand response programs focus instead on selectively taking demand off the grid not by a pattern of utility rates but via a system where consumers will receive alerts to decrease power consumption during unexpected demand surges or supply crunches. These alerts can be expected to come during the hottest or coldest several days of the year when air conditioning or heating are pushing the grid to its limits. As a result, users receive compensation for adjusting their temperatures by several degrees or delaying use of their energy-intensive appliances.

However, decentralized energy storage provides an alternative, where any stakeholder—home or business—can participate in demand response by adding supply to the grid during these events. When people highlight the shift to prosumer as a fundamental rethinking of our whole energy system, this application is a key and tangible example.

Backup Power

The affordability of decentralized energy storage also creates critical movement for the grid resilience of consumers. In many areas that experience regular grid interruptions (e.g., think Florida during hurricane season, California during public safety power shutoffs, and even the unexpected winter storm that almost took the Texas grid offline completely, consumers are accustomed to having backup generators on hand. Doing so can be expensive and cumbersome, and it requires the use of fossil fuels to run. But where power outages are unacceptable for any length of time, such backup generators have really been the only option.

With the availability of consumer-accessible battery storage, though, grid reliability is now available in a cleaner, more affordable, and more efficient way. Early adopters of energy storage, such as homeowners with the Tesla Powerwall, have started this shift, but even those batteries have natural restrictions in that you can’t take them with you if you leave home. Further, they have limited improvement options once installed, and trying to upgrade and scale-up is somewhat impractical. The true gamechanger, thus, are batteries that are fully open for users to do with as they please, to move them where the power is needed, and to add and supplement energy storage capacity. These additional capabilities are key to what Joule Case offers.

What are the Hurdles in the Way?

Skeptics may naturally ask: if energy storage as a decentralized energy source is so advantageous, why isn’t it everywhere? As with any innovative technology, hurdles remain that must be overcome to truly unlock the potential of decentralized energy storage.

To start, energy storage options have traditionally locked users into a single technology (that also comes with high upfront costs), creating a natural struggle. This reality also segments the consumer market between technologies. As a parallel example, hydrogen cars and electric vehicles could both make a dent in overall transportation emissions. But, the two ‘fuel’ sources are not cross-compatible, meaning the segmentation of transportation between the two risks stifling market penetration for both of them. For a sustainable technology to usher in a true revolution, interoperability and flexibility are necessary. Joule Case is the only energy storage technology on the market that factors in this forward-looking need for interoperability. Rather than going all-in on a current (e.g., lithium-ion) or next-generation (e.g., solid-state) technology, all Joule Case batteries can link up to an older generation with whatever new model comes next, interlocking seamlessly like building blocks.

Another challenge for the future of energy storage comes from the users themselves. They must understand the ‘what,’ ‘how,’ and ‘why’ to use the technology. Decentralization as a concept requires a fundamental shift in thinking about energy, which is not an easy ask. The telecommunications industry successfully navigated this challenge when implementing its own version of decentralization (cell phones). Similarly, electric vehicles are forcing a fundamental rethinking of how people plan trips. And now, these decentralized battery technologies are early in the process of compelling the everyday user and business to rethink energy. These shifts from energy storage are fundamental, adjusting a consumer’s:

The decentralization aspect of the green revolution is all about busting out of the mindset of working within the constraints of where power is, instead of shifting to look at how we can utilize power when and where we need it.

Lastly, energy storage must also contend with unfortunate misconceptions. For example, having heard issues about supply chains for battery materials or the environmental impact of mining those materials in mainstream media, people may think that leaning into batteries is just as destructive as burning fossil fuels. This idea, however, is not backed up by science. Batteries aren’t perfect, and the energy storage continues to work on the overall sustainability of the technology, but embracing batteries is not akin to trading one evil for another. Leaning into energy storage, rather, is investing in a more sustainable long-term future instead of the short-term fossil fuel alternative.

Energy Storage and the Opportunities of Decentralized Power Availability: Use Cases on the Ground Today and Coming in the Future

Energy storage technologies are following a similar trajectory that solar panels have taken in recent years. Costs are falling, efficiencies are improving, and it’s becoming more common to see both of these technologies installed at homes, businesses, and a myriad of other applications. Whereas solar technology was revolutionary in bringing power generation to off-grid and/or decentralized locations, batteries take this disruption a step further: they allow users to bring power accessibility wherever they need it, regardless of where, when, or how it was originally generated.

As batteries become smaller in footprint and more powerful in performance, the accessibility of energy storage is creating brand new opportunities. Especially when these batteries are built with mobility, interoperability, and intelligent digital technologies in mind, the status quo of how users interact with energy is rapidly evolving.

The following specific use cases highlight these new and changing abilities, both ones already commercially implemented today and the ones that are on the horizon in the years to come.

Today’s Key Decentralized Energy Storage Use Cases

When moving from theoretical to practical implementation, multiple use cases today highlight the key opportunities for energy storage.

Mobile Business

Mobile businesses rely exclusively on mobile energy. As such, they are typically small and count on a quick return on investment, with reliability and affordability of energy being paramount to their bottom line. As with households with backup generator needs, for a long time, these mobile entrepreneurs simply had to adopt gas generators, with no alternatives. Today, though, the status of these mobile businesses as some of the most considerate purchasers—due to their small size, their likelihood to be owner/operator or family-owned, and how much pride they take in their business—makes them some of the first commercial segments really leaning into the battery alternative.

A key example of these mobile businesses includes food trucks, needing reliable, consistent, and affordable energy to run their cooking and refrigeration equipment. With battery storage solutions, they can do so in a way that’s more sustainable for the environment and limits toxic emissions around their delicious food as added bonuses.

Rebuilding Critical Human Infrastructure Post Disaster

The more that everyday life requires reliable power for critical functions—everything from health to safety to food and more—the more devastating it becomes when disasters wipe out grid infrastructure and cause long-term power outages. In the light of the changing climate that’s seeing extreme weather become more common, the need to ensure emergency response can have access to power after disasters is more tangible: hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and even incidents like war zones or mass refugee events. Ensuring humanitarian aid and basic life functions for those impacted in each of these incidences requires on-demand, mobile power.

After any of these major events, first responders need dispatchable energy to run mobile response centers, repair damages, and keep societal functions running in the meantime, not to mention the power needed as construction and repairs begin the long process of rebuilding. Whereas gas generators have been a solution in these instances, their use is imperfect as they continue to rely on fossil fuel supplies to be delivered. Mobile energy storage, however, can be quickly attached to solar panels to quickly, affordably, and sustainably bring power to ground zero.

All of these critical functions are of particular importance for the most vulnerable populations: heating/cooling for the elderly in extreme conditions, keeping medicines and foods at safe temperatures, operating nursing homes and hospitals, and more. Losing power for any of these applications simply is not an option, but the grid doesn’t always cooperate. Having mobile energy storage available is a necessary solution.

Home Projects

Energy storage has traditionally been pitched as a great use case for those going camping, providing light and power on demand in the middle of the woods. However, not everyone camps and so the scope here is limited, but most people do have projects they want to work on at home, whether that’s yard work, carpentry, or otherwise. Mobile energy storage can unlock new possibilities in this realm. In fact, the Ford F150 Lightning Electric Pickup Truck made some buzz in the press when it highlighted its offering of an outlet that could let people plug in their power tools, run equipment at a tailgate, and even provide backup power to the house. While these abilities being tied to a vehicle make for a great commercial, in reality, they’re not all that different than what was available from the cigarette lighter of older gasoline-powered trucks. And the size of these batteries is limited, given they have to be small and light enough to fit in the vehicle while not dragging it down. That means every moment an EV battery is being used for a secondary purpose, it won’t be used for a subsequent drive (not to mention concerns with what such use will do to the lifetime of the battery, using up the limited amount of lifetime charging cycles inherent to any EV battery technology).

Instead, by designing decentralized energy storage to be used exclusively for these needs, the EVs can stay fully charged in the garage while battery technologies are ready to unlock the rest of the possibilities. The beauty of this function of mobile energy storage is also that as one’s lifestyle scales up, (e.g., from apartment to condo to house), mobile batteries can readily scale up to provide power. This interoperability and growth is the advantage that Joule Case offers, for example.

Others:

These examples provided just a few insights into high-value use cases of advanced decentralized energy storage, but the possibilities are truly endless. These mobile batteries can provide unmatched value for:

Tomorrow’s Key Decentralized Energy Storage Use Cases

While the above use cases highlight where energy storage is being used today, the really powerful applications are still on the horizon:

Empowering renewable generators

For builders of solar or wind farms, regulators often require a level of energy storage to go with it. While these developers know everything about their generation assets, they may not be on top of the latest energy storage options. As a result, they tend to play it safe, going with high name recognition. But new technologies, like Joule Case, are upending that norm. Integrating advanced battery storage allows them to right-size storage to their needs, avoid overpriced technology, and minimize transmission constraint issues. Even better, doing so will allow the storage asset to be flexible, growing and moving to new applications rather than being a fixed asset over the entire life of the generation asset.

Transportation

A constraint to electric vehicle adoption is in the range they offer and how long it takes to recharge the battery in the middle of a road trip. As a way to rethink this paradigm, electric vehicles that utilize partial battery switching along with battery charging (think of it like topping off the gas tank rather than recharging a battery from dead to full) provides new opportunity to get past those hurdles, bringing down recharge times without having to make a completely switchable battery.

Energizing the World

The parts of the world that could most use the abilities of decentralized energy storage include third-world areas that don’t have readily available electricity everywhere, all the time. If these remote and developing regions pair decentralized generation (e.g., solar panels) with energy storage, the need for dirty, expensive, and unhealthy generators is eliminated and gives them more reliable power for productivity, safety, health, and improved quality of life.

Of note, situations, where the power grid isn’t accessible, may sound restricted to far-off lands to those currently living in comfortable urban environments, but even in the United States, there are plenty of places where the traditional power grid remains expensive and inaccessible.

What Comes Next?

The energy industry recognizes a need to shift the fundamental mindset about where and when power is generated and how it gets to final consumption. This evolution is about busting out of the past acceptance of working within the constraints of where power is, shifting to look at how we can utilize power when and where we need it.

Especially in today’s world that has gone through years of a pandemic, turning everything we knew upside down in its wake, society has more appetite than ever to reimagine how we can newly do things in a better way. Accepting ‘This is how things have always been done’ means less than it ever did, especially for consumers who saw their power needs not addressed during the past few years.

As people look at generators, they are opening their eyes to the downsides of how 'this has always been done’ and then seeing new possibilities in batteries. They may not deeply understand kWh or volts, but as products become more user-friendly, featuring all-in-one packages, they can rely on an off-the-shelf solution that simply works (parallel to wanting to buy an Apple PC rather than building one from the component parts: usability and user-friendliness will unlock new opportunities).

As users gain more understanding of and acceptance of battery systems, the acceptance of noisy and polluting generators will wane. Additionally, the strengthening desire to be self-reliant in the wake of continued grid interruptions will provide the drive for action.

Decentralized energy storage technology is here now. We largely thought these problems were still off on the horizon of being solved, that they would eventually live up to the hype, but rather than falling short of hype these battery technologies are available to solve these problems now… ahead of schedule! And utilizing batteries that are interoperable and self-contained is bringing the technology trends of the past to energy storage now. If you thought the past ten years were big for the presence of solar power, get ready for the coming years to be known as the Decade of Storage!

On October 9, 2021, California Governor, Gavin Newsome, signed into law California State Assembly Bill 1346 (“AB 1346”). This law states, “By July 1, 2022, the state board shall, consistent with federal law, adopt cost-effective and technologically feasible regulations to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines, as defined by the state board.” 

For the non-politicians like us, this means that in an effort to reduce harmful emissions, consumers will not be able to buy a new generator in California in the coming years. Small off-road engines (“SOREs”) is a broad category that includes gas-powered lawn equipment, such as leaf blowers, lawnmowers, chainsaws, and pressure washers, but also extend to generators. Keep in mind, however, that AB 1346 does not ban the operation of such equipment, just the purchase within the state of California. Additionally, SOREs that use diesel fuel are exempt from these regulations.

In essence, this will have ramifications on mobile businesses in California that need power, and planning should begin now for the transition. This law could also foreshadow more legislation and restrictions to come.

History of AB 1346

Introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman (District 24/Menlo Park), this new law accelerates and gives some specificity to the Executive Order from Governor Newsom that seeks zero emissions by 2035. California is also transitioning towards the goal of 100% clean energy by 2045. SOREs became a primary target of legislative action because they’re dirty—really dirty. 

According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a typical commercial lawn mower emits as much smog-forming pollution in one hour as driving a Toyota Camry, about 300 miles. For a typical leaf blower, one hour of operation is the equivalent of driving that same Camry 1100 miles. CARB also estimates that small engine emissions will be double those of passenger cars by 2031 in the Greater Los Angeles area. Clearly, taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of SOREs is a needed component of maintaining healthy air standards.

Unfortunately, for many mobile business owners, the generators needed to run their business are also being targeted even though they don’t have the wide-scale environmental impact of their dirtier, lawn-maintaining cousins. Let’s be clear, though, generators are just as dirty, if not dirtier, but the sheer ubiquity of gas-powered lawn equipment makes them a much larger polluter.

Batteries—The Clear Alternative

So, with the imminent ban on the sale of new gas-guzzling generators, where can you turn to power your mobile business? The restrictions don’t take effect for a few years, and even then, generators will likely still be able to be purchased in neighboring states. With this in mind, it may seem like there is little incentive to change. But, let’s face it, generators have a track record of mechanical failure. Talk to an operator and they describe generators as finicky at best, nightmares at worst. There’s a reason that for most major events, two backup generators are present to supplement the primary as standard practice. If your power source sustains a mechanical failure in the middle of a busy shift, the last thing you’ll want to do is travel out of state to go buy another loud, polluting generator. Just the thought of this scenario is enough to induce hives.

One option is to just operate where reliable shore power is available. That, however, is stifling and negates the ‘mobile’ part of your mobile business.

Instead, power solutions like Joule Case battery systems are a better option… now and especially in the future. Batteries are clean, quiet, and can be recharged from the grid or renewable sources. They supply all of the upsides of generators without any of the downsides.

Convert Now and Save 26%

At Joule Case, we say it all the time, “Generators are cheap to buy but expensive to run.” Converting to battery power is a larger upfront investment and that will likely always be the case. But, one of the ways to make batteries more economically viable is to also install solar panels which enables you to save 26% on the entire system with a federal tax incentive. Read our blog post about the Solar Investment Tax Credit. This credit begins phasing out in 2023, so to take full advantage of this incentive, time is running out.

More Restrictions to Come

Outside of the clear environmental impact, health will also be a key driver for upcoming restrictions on the purchase and operation of generators. In a report released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), carbon monoxide from generators kills an average of 80 people in the U.S. each year. So, outside of California, there’s a groundswell of interest to ban 

With the amount of pollution they produce and nearly every government entity enacting climate action plans, it’s when—not if—more restrictions on the purchase and operation of generators are enacted. Converting to batteries now, especially with the financial incentives afforded by the Solar Investment Tax Credit, is something every mobile business should consider.

Note: This article has been updated to reflect policy changes that have taken effect with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Compared to perception or availability (the sun is everywhere, right?), solar is an underutilized source of energy. In fact, solar sources generate 115 billion kWh of energy, making up only 2.8% of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation just ahead of biomass and geothermal sources. Due to the relative inefficiency of solar panels, the imbalance of peak generation to peak demand,  and the amount of space needed, it may take decades before solar generation contributes significantly to the American power grids.

Outside of utility-scale energy generation, the U.S. Energy Information Administration also estimates that 49 billion kWh of electricity was generated from small-scale solar systems in 2021. The grid may not feel the effects of these small systems, but they could have a massive impact on your business. Paired with a variety of state and federal tax incentives and rebates, solar could help your business reach new heights.

Solar Investment Tax Credit

The solar investment tax credit began in 2011 and provided a “tax credit that can be claimed on federal corporate income taxes for 30% of the cost of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system that is placed in service during the tax year.” A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of income tax you would otherwise owe. 

This ITC was set to expire but in December 2020, Congress extended this incentive and provided a 26% credit “for systems commencing construction in 2020-2022, 22% for systems commencing construction in 2023, and 10% for systems commencing construction in 2024 or thereafter.” This all changed with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August 2022. The most significant climate bill in American history restored the solar investment tax credit to 30% retroactive to systems put in service after January 1, 2022 and remaining at that level until 2033 before decreasing to 22.5% in 2034, 15% in 2035, and, finally, 0% in 2036.

Eligible Expenses

This incentive was to crafted to maximize the potential of installation and usage of solar power. As such, the eligible expenses that the current 30% federal solar tax credit can be used towards extend beyond the solar panels themselves. Inverters, racking, installation, energy storage devices, and more all qualify for the incentive. That means that the cost of an energy storage solution like Joule Case can be included. While Joule Case is not a solar panel manufacturer or installer, storage is the key to unlocking this energy source’s full potential. When the sun isn’t an option, like at night or on a cloudy day, you’ll need to pull power from somewhere! That’s where batteries come into play.

Business Benefits

Investing in solar isn’t cheap. But, it could still be the right choice for your business. Compared to alternatives, solar generation is the best option to achieve the balance between energy independence, business mobility, and cost-effectiveness. We say it all the time here at Joule Case, “Generators are cheap to buy but expensive to run.” Conversely, solar generation paired with battery storage is a larger upfront investment, but there are minimal (if not zero) ongoing costs related to maintenance, downtime, and fuel. With this in mind, the return on investment for a solar system compared to a fossil-fuel burning generator is quicker than you might think. Tax incentives only shorten this ROI period. 

Other Resources

This post only gives an overview of the solar investment tax credit—a federal incentive. There are a variety of other state and federal incentives that you may be able to take advantage of. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) provides a comprehensive, central repository of policy and incentive information on the local, state, and federal levels.

For instance, by scanning the DSIRE you can quickly find that:

These are just some of the many incentives that exist for businesses that install solar. We highly recommend exploring all that is available to you and your business with your tax advisor.


Disclaimer: We are experts at advanced power systems—not law and taxation. We highly recommend consulting your attorney and accountant to understand how to fully take advantage of the tax incentives that might be available. This article does not constitute professional tax advice or other professional financial guidance. And it should not be used as the only source of information when making purchasing, investment, or tax decisions.

The ‘green’ revolution was once trumpeted by a vocal and passionate minority of folks. Today, the march towards sustainability has become one embraced by popular demand across sectors, geographies, and classes. Sustainability is eagerly discussed in board rooms as well as at the grassroots level, in urban centers and in small rural towns, and at every step along the supply chain.

Meeting lofty goals of this green movement today is largely driven by public policy, and governments across the country (and, indeed, the world) are all putting forth clean energy, sustainability, and climate targets and actions to meet those aggressive ambitions. Whether those government targets require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by installing renewable energy assets, committing to the electric vehicle (EV) transformation, or via carbon-negative strategies of protecting trees or other natural environments, the political will to be sustainable has never been greater than it is today. And that fact is driven by the understanding that:

  1. Sustainability is the rational economic choice
  2. Policies that embrace clean energy and green actions are increasingly popular for their local benefits to environments and job markets
  3. Preserving the planet for the future is an existential priority

While these issues are actively debated on the federal and even state government stages, municipalities have some unique opportunities given how close they are to their constituents and communities and how tangible results can be seen, felt, and even measured. As such, municipalities carry some of the greatest ability to embrace a sustainable future.

Where Cities Can Uniquely Succeed

To set the stage, more than 100 American cities have already pledged to meet the net-zero future. By signing onto the ‘Cities Race to Zero,’ the mayors of these cities (who represent more than 54 million Americans collectively) have shown a commitment to a sustainable future. While policies related to climate and clean energy notoriously get stuck in gridlock in the U.S. Congress, the smaller representative bodies for municipal governments are better poised to make those commitments for their citizens today.

The Cities Race to Zero partner cities around the Word.

Even better, leaders of city governments can bring those direct benefits of sustainability to their citizens in a tangible and deliverable way. For the everyday citizen, if the state or federal government passes legislation with millions of dollars for clean energy, those new solar panels could easily be installed thousands of miles from their home, never to be seen by them. When national policy funds EV chargers across a major highway, it could very well be a highway they will never drive on. But for a city council or a mayor to make a commitment to sustainable projects, the citizens of those cities will see those projects and, more importantly, see and feel the benefits.  

Making these sustainable projects feel closer to home creates a positive feedback loop: the citizen who is excited to see EV chargers in their local downtown may consider buying an EV themselves; that new EV driver may love the feeling that a sustainable decision gives them so much that they go the next step and consider installing solar on their rooftop; that owner of a rooftop solar system may want to make embracing clean energy easier for everyone in their city, and so they start working with local politicians to fund incentives and programs to widen to reach of such technologies. This chain result is made possible thanks to local, municipal action towards sustainability. Engaging with local citizens in this way offers two-way benefits and feedback, and municipal leaders can and must embrace those abilities to push forward as key sustainability leaders.

Benefits by the Numbers of City-Level Sustainability

Before embracing sustainability in decision-making, leaders will understandably want to know why they should do so. While for many people sustainability as a key factor in decisions has become second nature, it’s always key to look at some of the benefits and the data behind these opportunities:

Benefits by the Numbers to the Municipalities

Benefits by the Numbers to the Citizens of the City

Technologies and Programs for Municipalities to Consider

One of the earliest but most challenging decisions in a government that wants to move towards sustainability is not a lack of options, but rather identifying the optimal combination of programs from a buffet of choices available. Every corner of each sector of the economy today has its own way to build in and fund sustainability, which is terrific progress but it also means that leaders are faced with competing avenues for sustainability funding. Leaders may be afraid of choosing incorrectly and failing to deliver on their promises or even just getting mired in paralysis of choice.

But the benefit that municipal-level leaders have compared with their peers in state and federal government is in the unique opportunities they have:

Directly Connecting Renewable Energy

For cities that are connected to municipal utilities, the decision on the power for the city is guided by what is best for the citizens (rather than with major investor-owned utilities, or IOUs, that must also do what benefits their shareholders). For such cities, this primary driver means that if the citizens want clean energy, then the leaders can make that happen directly.

For one, municipalities can install solar and wind generation assets on city land, pumping renewable and carbon-free electricity directly into the local grid. Where the land or funds to do so aren’t available, cities can also contract via power purchase agreements (PPAs) with major renewable asset developers and/or owners to buy renewable power directly from them. Either way, cities can guide where their energy is coming from in a way that can directly respond to the will of their people.

Further, municipal utilities can be a key leader in the shift towards distributed energy. Rather than continuing the long-established trend of centralized power plants transmitting energy miles and miles to end users, distributed energy assets (which include tools like large-scale wind farms and rooftop solar installations) generate energy closer to the point of consumption and distributed across the grid. Such distributed energy brings new clean energy opportunities to a city, which leaders can foster using economic incentives or even by simply running educational campaigns to highlight new affordable opportunities. Either way, cities can use these tools to put the power in the hands of the citizens. While IOUs may be more reticent to push consumers to be ‘prosumers’ because it takes potential revenue out of their pockets, municipal utilities are built on the basis of benefitting their citizens even if it drops the revenue for the utility.

Making City Buildings and Fleets Sustainable

Another key opportunity for municipalities comes from the power of procurement: leveraging the purchases of energy assets in city buildings and transportation fleets to drive market trends. For city buildings, which include everything from city hall to schools to libraries, municipalities can ensure they are buying energy that is clean. If a local renewable project developer is looking to install a solar farm, for example, a long-term contract signed between the renewable developer and the city can provide a long-term and reliable contract that ensures such renewable projects are profitable, while also ensuring the city’s assets move towards net-zero carbon.

Cities are also often owners of notable fleets of vehicles, such as police vehicles, buses, garbage trucks, and more. In the same way, by converting these vehicles to more sustainable energy sources (whether EVs, hydrogen vehicles, hybrid vehicles, or otherwise), city leaders can immediately create market demand for that fuel source. For example, the EV transformation often runs into a chicken and egg problem where EV chargers wouldn’t be profitable without people driving such cars nearby, but people are hesitant to buy EVs if they haven’t publicly seen such EV chargers. By committing their substantial fleets to EVs, cities can send a market signal that their municipality will be one that fosters the electrification of vehicles and empowers their citizens to join the EV market.

Even further, everything purchased and used by the city can be made more sustainable. City offices can purchase recycled materials, they can participate in composting programs, reduce their use of plastic products, and more. While an individual household making any of these sustainable decisions is a positive step, city decisions have a naturally larger footprint and can thus move the needle even more significantly.

Clean Energy in City Parks

Another key opportunity uniquely available to municipal leaders to be shepherds of sustainability is via their city parks and open spaces where events may often be held. For cities that are putting on outdoor events, whether that means concerts, parties, street festivals, farmers' markets, or otherwise, they often require power to run equipment. Getting mobile power to these locations often requires the use of diesel- or gasoline-powered generators. Cities that want to walk the walk when it comes to sustainability, though, have started to look towards mobile batteries instead.

Whereas generators are not only loud and odor-emitting (which can hamper an otherwise enjoyable event), they are also known for their localized pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, backup generators used in these instances can be responsible for 200 to 600 times more emissions than typical electricity use. Modular and mobile batteries, like the ones offered by Joule Case, can be charged by the grid or renewable sources and then brought easily and readily to wherever the energy is needed. Not only are such batteries already more sustainable than the traditionally used generators, but as more renewable energy is integrated into the city’s grid that just means the net carbon footprint of electricity from those batteries will likewise be even more sustainable. Using this technology represents a near-term and long-term commitment to sustainability.

These several opportunities represent just a few examples of unique opportunities for municipalities to create change and progress in their backyards. Investing in sustainability continues to evolve, and doing so can touch upon energy, transportation, industry, construction, and so much more.

Leading By Example: City Use Cases

To demonstrate that these opportunities for sustainability are not simply empty platitudes, what follows are some key examples of engaged cities that are putting sustainable strategies to the best possible use for their communities:

Community Solar

Cedar Falls, Iowa, has been a leader in the municipal pursuit of community solar, connecting a 1.5-megawatt (MW) community solar farm in 2016, continuing to grow the program as customer interest exploded. To date, this program has produced 2,600 megawatt-hours (MWh) each year.

Read more about this municipal success here.

Grid-Tied Energy Storage

Ashburnham, Massachusetts, built a 5 MWh grid-tied battery project in 2019, with the energy storage capabilities being put to use by reducing the cost to its citizens for the transmission and capacity of electricity. City leaders celebrated this project as being one that not only reduced emissions from the local power grid but one that did so in a way that reduced rather than increased customer bills.

Read more about this municipal success here.

Regulations to Incentive EVs

Quincy, Washington, made the transition to EVs for its citizens a priority by passing a local law that provided a 10% bonus density credit for the incorporation of alternative energy considerations, which included EV charging infrastructure. By making it more attractive for building developers to install EVs, the city created a virtually no-cost way to support the EV transition for its citizens.

Read more about this municipal success here.

Providing Transportation Options Other Than Cars

Portland, Oregon, took the sustainable transportation trend even further by providing its citizens with a multitude of ways to move around the city without adding any carbon emissions to the air. By embracing public transportation, biking infrastructure, and walkable city considerations, about 1/4 of its citizens go about their daily commute without ever getting in a car.

Read more about this municipal success here.

Residential Energy Storage Programs

Fort Collins, Florida, sought to embrace the opportunity energy storage brings to the grid much like Ashburnham did, but to do so in a way that empowered its citizens to be the main drivers and beneficiaries. With its residential battery storage program, Fort Collins offers net metering rates, provides incentives to pay for part of new battery installations, and offers educational opportunities on how to best utilize these batteries to reduce utility bills.

Read more about this municipal success here.

Net Zero Carbon Municipal Buildings

San Diego, California, has looked to lead the move to net-zero by starting with its own buildings first. As a key example, San Diego undertook a project to create Net Zero Energy Libraries that involve not only energy retrofits and on-site solar energy systems but also educational programs to use these upgrades as an educational opportunity for its citizens to learn and adapt similar strategies in their homes or businesses.

Read more about this municipal success here.

Taking the First Step

What’s important to note when reviewing these examples of cities taking the lead on sustainability is that the pursuit of these goals isn’t far off nor does it represent a lofty and unattainable future. Rather, these ambitions are achievable today. For municipalities, leaders may find it difficult to know where to start, but the question is no longer when to start—the directive is clear to start now.

Sustainable action encompasses many different options, all of which can be tailor-made to the geography, the size, the population, and the needs of the particular municipality. City leaders can look to their neighbors, watch the advancing technologies, and even consult with experts in these types of green technologies and sustainability integrations (such as Joule Case and our efforts to bring mobile and module energy storage to cities across the country) to learn more.

Now is the time to be the leader that the citizens want to see, so we want to issue a challenge statement to municipalities: Take a hard look about what initiatives you’re offering today and compare that with what neighboring and similar cities across the country are doing. Instituting a green program or a sustainability project occasionally is not enough to hang your hat on. Rather, these principles should be engrained in every aspect of municipal action, so we challenge you to find new opportunities you can build sustainability into your community. We only have one planet, one environment, and one chance, so make the most of it!