The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

The Tale of Parallel Industries: Energy Storage Should Prepare to Face the Same Trials as Solar

The atmosphere was electric at the 2014 Energy Storage Association Conference keynote in Washington D.C. last night. Attendees were eager to explore the burgeoning storage industry that has gained significant momentum in the past year. The conference itself has grown more than six-fold from its nascent beginnings. Today "more than $1 billion [will be] placed into contracts over the next 18 months,” noted EnerVault co-founder Craig Horne during the opening introductions.

The scene certainly seemed familiar, and may have caused many solar industry veterans to remember a similar atmosphere at solar trade shows of years past. It certainly triggered Sunpower CEO and keynote speaker Tom Werner’s memory, who reminisced about the year 2007, when Sunpower had an $11 billion market cap and couldn't make panels fast enough. 

We all know what happened in the years that followed — those prosperous days came to a screeching halt when too many players entered the game causing a supply glut.  Solar was “a terrible place to be.” In the last seven years, Sunpower’s market cap dropped to $300 million. “We’ve had a hell of a ride,” Werner said.

He then gave sharp words of warning for ESA attendees: “This will happen to you, and a few years from now you will remember me talking about this. There will be a boom period, and there will be a bust period. Plan on a bust period.”

Solar and Storage = BFFs

In order to help move both the storage and solar industries along and help storage survive its boom and bust period, Werner said that solar and storage must work together.

Since solar has already gone through death valley and gotten costs down, it can compete with conventional electricity. And since it is an intermittent technology, said Werner, the more that solar grows, the more it “destroys” the grid, making integration a huge issue. However, Werner believes that the combination of solar and storage will completely change the way people use energy. 

“Every time we put solar on the grid it increases the need for storage,” said Werner. “There is a [grid] penetration point when you need a solution, so the combination with storage makes complete sense. Solar growth is your friend…We will create demand for you.”

A major way that storage can compliment solar is to shave down peak energy costs, and what Werner called the “duck curve,” a term commonly used for California. As more solar enters the grid, it generates more power when the suns shine in the middle of the day. However, utilities need to ramp up power during peak usage at night. Storage can help flatten these drastic curves by storing energy during the day and allowing us to use that clean energy at night.

This "duck curve" shows the increased overgeneration risk and peak ramping needs (potentially 13 GW within three hours) that occur as more solar is added to the grid. Credit: CAISO

Betting on a Distributed Future

Werner said that Sunpower is also predicting that distributed generation will be the future for solar, not utility-scale, and said that net-metering cannot last forever. “Utilities hate it, and it isn’t economical in the long-run.” Hawaii is a perfect example if this, as it has been on an 11-year decline in energy demand — the more that people put big systems on their homes, which ultimately decreases energy demand, the more net metering is uneconomical.

As an alternative, people should start installing systems that reflect the amount of energy they consume, and can eventually install larger systems with storage. And with energy management improvements, homeowners are then a step closer to having complete control over their energy bill. He used Germany as a shining example of this, and noted that there are more than 4,000 residential storage systems in Germany, and it has the same modest solar resources as Alaska.

Looking to the future, Werner said that Sunpower is moving from a solar company to an energy service provider, with a focus on distributed generation. 

“In five years, customers will get total control of their energy. As an energy service provider, [we will optimize] a combination of solar, storage and energy management” for each customer based on their needs and what they are willing to pay.

Get Ready for Rapid Growth

Though Wenrer said he is confident that solar will experience huge growth in the coming years, storage will be even faster. He expects storage to become economical within the next five years.

“Together we need to figure out the right model for PV and storage that is self-reinforcing and mutually beneficial to customers and the grid,” he said. “As you get to scale you’ll get costs down, it will happen just like solar. There is a parallel — and as a company we’re banking on it.”

Lead image: Merging tracks via Shutterstock

RELATED ARTICLES

Battery Second Use Offsets Electric Vehicle Expenses, Improves Grid Stability

Anya Breitenbach, NREL Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) have the potential to dramatically drive down consumption of carbon-based fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the relatively high price of these vehicles — due in large part to th...
Electric vehicles

Innovating Today for the Homes of Tomorrow

David Glickson, NREL Shaping our energy future into one that is efficient, reliable, affordable, and sustainable is a significant undertaking. Much of this effort is focused around the energy industry, utilities, and power grids—which can seem ...
Clean planet

Renewable Energy Responsible for First Ever Carbon Emissions Stabilization

Vince Font, Contributing Editor Carbon emissions in 2014 remained at the previous year’s levels of 32.3 billion metric tons — a milestone that points to the impact worldwide renewable energy investment is having in the face of a 1.5 percent annual increas...
Coal plant

Duke Energy Building Utility-Grade Energy Storage System at Retired Coal Plant

Andrew Burger, Correspondent At the forefront of a rapidly evolving energy landscape, Duke Energy sees promise in using intelligent energy storage systems to enhance the efficiency, stability and resilience of U.S. electricity grids. The nation's large...
As associate editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com, I coordinate and edit feature stories, contributed articles, news stories, opinion pieces and blogs. I also research and write content for RenewableEnergyWorld.com and REW magazine. I manage REW.com...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 3
1505REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Outage Management for Power Plants

Building on this series’ success, the 14th Annual Outage Managemen...

SAP for Utilities

The SAP for Utilities conference is the most comprehensive SAP for Utili...

Training: Preparing for Rule 21 - SPI 2015

What: Rule 21 Training When: September 16th @ 4:30-5:30pm Wher...

COMPANY BLOGS

More Middle-Class Massachusetts Residents Are Going Solar

Massachusetts is known for the Pilgrims, Boston cream pie and its excell...

Harnessing Emotions

Think about how you interact with your prospects. Are you going from the...

GreenLancer Works Hard, Plays Hard

Most of us have heard that a company can increase its productivity by en...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS