Sunrun, the largest U.S. residential-solar company, will get its chance to prove that home batteries and solar panels can stack up against traditional power plants.

The San Francisco-based company won a 20MW bid in the forward capacity auction for ISO New England, which operates the electric grid in six Northeastern states. That auction ensures that enough grid capacity will be online in 2022.

It plans to store solar power in thousands of battery systems across the region, saving the power until it’s needed on the grid. Capacity auctions help grid operators and power-plant developers make plans for future supplies by guaranteeing a minimum payment to keep existing supplies in operation and attracting new ones.

This is the first time sunshine has been a significant participant in this auction, typically dominated by plants that burn natural gas and coal, as well as hydroelectric dams and nuclear reactors - big generation facilities that can guarantee power at any moment. 

With prices for batteries rapidly plummeting, pairing them with solar and wind is becoming more common, addressing one of the biggest knocks on clean energy - that it's not always available - and helping it compete with conventional power plants.

Furthermore, climate change concerns are increasingly driving regulators and governments to create ways to accommodate greater penetration of renewables into the electric grid - this may only be the beginning of a storage revolution in both the electric and transportation sectors.

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