Analysing the Quest for Renewable Energy Storage Systems

Analysing the quest for renewable energy storage systems

Industrial-scale solar requires capable storage technologies.

Energy industry analysts have repeatedly stated that advanced energy storage systems are the key to encouraging adoption of renewable power sources.

The US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technology Programs started the Renewable Systems Interconnection studies, which sought to identify the obstacles towards widespread use of green energy. One of the studies’ conclusions was that effective storage technologies were needed to enhance solar’s reliability.

Has the industry made progress since the analyses took place in 2007?

The technology is here

It turns out that companies across the world are already developing energy storage systems. For instance, we at MPower develop custom storage solutions for utilities, private businesses and homeowners. The systems come with peak lopping, ramp rate and stability control, which account for the variability associated with solar generation.

However, research and development (R&D) is not a stagnant endeavour. Improving products to meet ever-changing customer demands entails constantly testing existing technologies to identify opportunities for advancement.

According to figures from the Clean Energy Council (CEC), storage developers will need to focus more on large-scale energy storage as the years progress. The organisation found that grid-connected residential photovoltaic (PV) installations will grow tenfold between now and 2018, reaching 900 megawatts (MW) of power.

Where does the technology stand today?

Storage solutions are quite varied, ranging from lithium ion and flow batteries to gas-fired compressed air energy storage (CAES) and pumped hydro systems, as noted by the CEC. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) Technology Roadmap: Energy storage outlined how storage solutions and their applications will progress with the passing years.

The IEA’s figures, current as of 2014, detail where specific storage technologies exist. The agency provided a graph that was presented at the IEA Energy Storage Technology Roadmap Stakeholder Engagement Workshop in February 2013. The visualisation measured technologies’ level of maturity:

  • R&D
  • Demonstration and deployment
  • Commercialisation

In addition, the graph deduced how much capital was required to sustain those storage solutions as well as the risk associated with them. For instance, high-speed flywheel storage is towards the end of the R&D phase, but requires a lot of capital investment and carries a great amount of risk. In contrast, pumped storage hydropower is a low-risk, affordable technology that is already used by energy sector participants.

Integrating the latest storage technologies into grid stability systems and other established assets is likely on the minds of many leaders. Overall, identifying the best solution possible and making it ready for industry use is a top priority. What’s happening in the residential sector?

Household battery storage

The Climate Council developed a report scrutinising Australia’s battery storage market, which noted that the country’s residential solar market is one of the most affordable sectors in the world. At the same time, the nation is notorious for high retail electricity prices. The latter issue is encouraging uptake of PV installations, thereby opening up the door to the energy storage market. surveyed 700 residential solar owners, finding that the average time it took for an installation to “pay for itself” was three years and two months. This means PV installations can add much value to a home, considering that, based on survey participant responses, calculated the average cost to buy and implement a solar array to be $8,783.

However, it does take longer for homeowners to receive a full return on investment from energy storage systems – anywhere between six and 12 years, according to the Climate Council. This encourages storage solutions developers to improve their technologies, making products more complementary to PV setups.

If you want to know more about our energy storage systems, contact the team at MPower today.

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