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|June 5, 2012|
|6:00pm CET (Central European Time)|
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The dynamic global expansion of renewable energy is one of the major challenges facing power grids. In addition to balancing out power supply and demand, storage technologies are playing an increasingly significant role in helping to integrate gigawatt-capacity solar and wind installations into the grid. In Germany, and for example in California, around a third of the electricity will be generated from renewables, in part from fluctuating sources, by the end of the decade.
On June 5, 2012, the Electricity Storage webinar run by the world’s largest exhibition for the solar industry, Intersolar Europe 2012, provided 1,500 participants all over the world with information on the wide range of technologies and potential applications that exist. The web-based seminar focused on the profitability of storage solutions as well as on new markets and political frameworks in the USA and Europe.
Taking California as an example, Janice Lin from US management consultancy Strategen Consulting demonstrated the numerous technical and economic advantages of the storage technologies and applications that are helping both to create a clean, reliable and affordable energy system and to incorporate renewables into smart power grids.
Lin anticipates that smart grids and storage technologies will generate revenue of US$238 billion over the next ten years in the US market alone. This is because not only consumers, but also utilities and grid operators, benefit from more efficient, intelligent and stable power grids.
Storage systems are able to assume a wide variety of tasks within smart grids and optimize them as a result, which in turn contributes to cost efficiency. These range from load management, which avoids costly excess capacities, to cost savings for consumers, who are able to lower their electricity bills by consuming the solar power they generate on site and by better managing their demand.
In the webinar, Lin stressed that what is now needed is for the benefits of storage technology to be monetized, a feat that has been achieved throughout solar energy’s successful history. In California, comparable political and organizational frameworks that are driving the market forward have already been established or instigated.
For example, Bill AB 2514, which came into force in November 2010, provides for specific expansion targets and multimillion dollar subsidies for new storage capacities, a large proportion of which are intended to combine photovoltaics and power storage systems. Furthermore, California wishes to push forward distributed power production under the Self-Generation Incentive Program with a sum of US$400 million, and intends to provide US$32 million for a grid stabilization program.
Lin believes that solar companies will chiefly be able to get ahead as a result of their expertise in distributed power production (on and off grid) which, when combined with storage and energy management systems, will open up new, attractive markets.
Martin Ammon from market research and consultancy firm EuPD Research presented an overview of the technologies. This ranged from established, dominant pumped storage systems, which have a total global capacity of around 150 GW, and batteries (approx. 16 GW) to newer approaches such as thermal and hydrogen storage systems, and super capacitors, though they still have only a very minor share of the market.
High-performance, environmentally-friendly lithium-ion batteries are now playing a major role, becoming increasingly important both for storing electricity from photovoltaic plants and for the future market of e-mobility. They also have the potential to supersede lead-acid batteries, which are thus far the cheaper of the two.
Manufacturers of complete package solutions for self-sufficient solar power supply attach particularly great importance to ingrating batteries into photovoltaic and energy management systems. And with good reason. As feed-in tariffs dwindle or are phased-out, from as early as 2020 it will only be possible to operate PV plants profitably if this is done in conjunction with storage solutions.
Continually falling prices for photovoltaic systems, cost reductions for batteries and rising electricity prices all guarantee that investments in solar power storage systems will pay off very quickly. EuPD Research predicts that by the end of the decade higher profits will be generated with solar power storage systems than with photovoltaic plants connected solely to the grid.
Solar power storage systems can initially bring their advantages to bear in countries with high electricity prices, such as Germany and Italy, as the savings that result from purchasing less power are felt most strongly there. The course is set for the road to energy independence.