Q&A with Cinnamon: Lithium Ion Batteries

We sat down with Barry to discuss his experience as well as important considerations when installing lithium-ion battery solutions.

LG Chem Resu10H

When it comes to the world of solar installers, few people in the United States have more know-how than Barry Cinnamon. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Barry has seen a dramatic shift in how solar pairs with energy storage. Whether it be clunky, frankensteined lead-acid battery systems or sleek, lithium ion solutions, Barry has interacted with a majority of the residential storage market’s offerings. We sat down with Barry to discuss his experience as well as important considerations when installing lithium-ion battery solutions.

 

  • Tell us about your background in the solar industry.

    • After graduating from college, I remember being inspired by President Jimmy Carter’s Address to the Nation on Energy speech in which he equated a gas shortage to the moral equivalent of war. I performed some solar thermal work in college and then went to business school.  After crunching the numbers on residential solar in California around 2000, I came to the realization that people could save money given the generous incentives. From there, I started an installation business in San Jose, California in 2001. I now own and operate Cinnamon Energy Systems and focus on integrating energy storage solutions into residential and commercial solar applications.

 

  • Explain some of the dynamics of today’s energy storage market compared to solar in the early 2000s.

    • Similar to China’s domination in terms of manufacturing solar modules over the past couple of decades, they are well-positioned to dominate battery manufacturing as well. Thus, in many ways, I see the trajectory for battery storage growth in the United States to be much greater than solar given the sophistication of some of today’s storage solutions. Perhaps one of the biggest barriers to more battery installations are the high soft costs which will eventually come down with more training and industry maturation.

 

  • What is your preferred residential energy storage solution?

    • At first, the Tesla Powerwall caught my eye as a potential winning storage solution based on the brand and the initial market demand it generated. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel great about supporting a product closely aligned with my competition in SolarCity. I’ve installed the StorEdge and LG Chem combination because I can design around it, reliably receive it, install it, and know it will work trouble-free for a 10-year lifespan. When researching battery storage systems, I really value the following:

      • Integration with inverters

      • Software support

      • A bankable company

 

 

  • What’s the most common battery storage mistake you hear about in the field?

    • When I was installing lead-acid battery systems, the most common mistakes were acid burns in my jeans or a mishandled battery. Today’s lithium-ion batteries have much fewer problems to worry about. To the credit of LG Chem and SolarEdge, there are few mistakes that can be made with their system. Even so, it’s important that installers abide by the LG Chem Resource Guide to receive IATA, DOT and RESU10H certification.

 

 

  • What’s your advice to solar contractors interested in creating a robust storage offering to their business model?

    • Installers should not underestimate the time it takes to master the wiring, software configuration, and back-up panel installation work required for these projects. There is a different level of comfortability with wiring these systems compared to standard grid-tied solar projects.

    • Additionally, for me in California, it’s important to remember that the driving force behind residential solar plus storage installations remains back-up power. Peak shifting and self-consumption are also important; however, I’ve found that peace of mind in the face of a natural disaster is more important to consumers.

 

  • What feedback have you received from homeowners on lithium-ion battery storage systems?

    • Many utilities in California have not adequately prepared for the demand that electric vehicles place on the grid. As a result, it’s not uncommon to have utility transformers blow up when there is a surge in demand that cannot be handled. On the whole, the reliability of the San Jose grid has decreased over the past 10 years. While we typically associate the need for battery backup with natural disasters, it’s also needed in areas with an aging grid infrastructure. About a month ago I was on vacation and received three or four texts from customers whom I’d recently installed an LG Chem system.  At first I thought the systems had failed; rather, the customers were sending messages of excitement because their appliances hooked up to the critical loads panel were operating just fine! That was pretty cool.

 

Further Reading

*The SolarEdge Energy Storage Solution

*Solar Batteries: Key Metrics for Success

*Why Local Installers will Benefit from National Installers’ Storage Push