As solar power continues to grow across California and around the world, the day when solar customers can generate their own green electricity while the sun is shining and store it in batteries to use at night, without relying on their utility’s power grid, is widely considered the next frontier.
Battery energy storage is technically an option today, but the high cost of the technology and other factors prevent most solar customers from installing battery storage units along with their solar power systems.
However, the face of energy storage is changing fast and the viability of battery energy storage is rapidly approaching.
“The interest level in energy storage matches that of the solar power industry and even passes it in some cases,” said Boris von Bormann, CEO of Sonnen, Inc., a German energy storage company.
The booming interest in energy storage is on display this week in San Francisco, where 2,000 solar power insiders from around the world have gathered for the annual Intersolar conference.
Energy storage is a hot topic at the conference, with officials calling its adoption key to sustaining growth in the booming renewable energy industry.
“Storage really is a catalyst for an expanded renewable energy market,” said Kirk Stokes, Director of Sales at Sharp Electronics, which is developing software for battery energy storage systems.
When coupled with a solar power system, the energy storage software can help “capture the value that solar can’t capture on its own,” Stokes said.
For example, when cloudy skies reduce solar power efficiency, solar electricity stored in batteries can be tapped to fill in the gap.
“When the solar system is doing its work, the storage system sits idle,” Stokes said.
Sharp’s SmartStorage is now being tested in a few California utility markets, including San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, with an eye toward expanding the product to more markets, Stokes said.
“We’re excited, because a rising tide floats lots of boats,” Stokes said of the increased interest in energy storage.
Alex Morris, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs for the California Energy Storage Alliance, said as the state strives to increase the amount of power it generates from renewable sources such as solar power, developing reliable and affordable energy storage options is key.
“You know storage is going to play a role, you just know it,” Morris said of the state’s renewable energy future. “Storage will play a role in our grids, especially in a high renewable future.”