Solar Energy Storage: Page 6 of 14

Emerging Technologies, Markets and Applications

What markets and applications provide an optimal value proposition for PV systems with integrated storage?

Storage plays a role in many markets, but is most commonly applied in the residential and commercial space where it is most cost effective. In a general sense, that is any place where the cost of energy exceeds the life cycle cost of a PV and battery system. Historically, this meant off-grid or remote microgrids where the cost of transmission made PV and batteries the least expensive option. However, decreasing PV costs over the last several years opened new applications, with PV and batteries merging with diesel grids. Now the hurdle is battery costs. There are various battery technologies that are driving life cycles up and capital costs down, achieving better LCOE [levelized cost of energy]. Those are the macro market drivers.

Other ancillary attributes make energy storage worth considering regardless of least-cost economics, the biggest of which is backup power. In the residential market, it doesn’t matter if the grid is cheaper when the grid has failed, because backup power is about security, not economic payback. Economics are more of a concern in commercial applications. One exciting application in the commercial space utilizes energy storage to reduce peak-demand charges. Loads are monitored and, when a customer is near a penalty threshold, stored energy is pushed into the load center, keeping the customer under the penalty.

Areas of regulatory compliance, such as markets with heavy PV penetration on certain feeders as in Hawaii, are making energy storage attractive. Due to the intermittency of PV during weather events, some utility markets such as Puerto Rico are using energy storage to smooth power delivery. Europe is incentivizing the concept of “self-consumption,” utilizing modest battery banks and smart-load monitoring to increase the percentage of PV energy used locally, minimizing impact and fluctuations on the grid.

Do you have any insights on the status of the solar energy storage market in Germany?

Germany has incentivized storage as a way to increase renewable energy penetration. The primary driver in the German market isn’t security from storms, it’s pure economics. The German policy model has created a system where consumption of PV power generated on-site is financially more advantageous than selling the power back to the grid. This focus on home energy management utilizes storage to time shift consumption to times when it’s most economically viable for the consumer and most beneficial for the grid operator.

How are recent challenges to state net metering laws impacting the growth trajectory of solar storage?

Net metering has been a pillar of support for the US PV industry. It’s been critical to the growth of the grid-tied market. Should it go away or new policies affect its economics, on-site storage could become an alternative much in the way Germany’s market operates. In a paradoxical way, any erosion of net metering is good for the storage market. Any increase in cost or hassle makes the relative cost of adding storage seem more palatable.

How will California’s Assembly Bill 2514 impact the deployment of solar storage systems in the state?

The mandate of storage will obviously impact both the consumer and utility sides, as outlined within the bill. We have noticed that this bill has already accelerated deployment of solar storage systems. By establishing guidelines and securing a potential market, it allows investment in the segment, spurring technological advances and leading to real volumes.

What are the major obstacles to the rapid expansion of the sales and deployment of solar storage systems in the US?

Certainly, the industry must address the cost of batteries and associated maintenance concerns, through either policy support or financial mechanisms like PPAs or leases. Likewise, the industry needs to work with grid operators so utilities benefit from the application of storage technologies, whether they are residential, commercial or utility scale. Advancements in the integration of grid, loads and renewable energy control systems are necessary. Finally, most installers are still inexperienced in storage technologies and are reluctant to sell into that space.

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