Sitting at the Tip of the Iceberg: The Huge Potential of Energy Storage

The United States is at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to energy storage innovation. Although the sector has made strong advances in recent years, we are just at the beginning of a wave of technological innovation and implementation. According to the global research firm IHS, the U.S. energy storage market will grow to 1.7 gigawatts in 2017 and should hit 2.5 GW by 2020. This impressive growth is in part due to the rapid expansion of distributed solar and supportive legislation set in place in the strongest U.S. PV market — California.

Policies and Technologies Advance Storage

Two policies have played a crucial role in making California the leader in energy storage: the Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), which incentivizes distributed energy projects, and AB 2514, which mandates the state’s utilities procure 1.325 GW of storage by 2020. These policies create a market for storage technologies, boosting demand, scaling businesses, and in turn reducing costs.

Storage technologies are advancing to meet this demand. Batteries are the most popular solution for both distributed and utility-scale systems. Lithium-ion batteries are currently the dominant technology paired with PV, with advances in liquid metal electrolyte batteries and a new generation of flow batteries and zinc-air batteries hitting the market. Global battery players such as ABB and S&C offer storage systems for PV.

Market Interest in Storage Technology

Stakeholders focused on the utility-scale market, including the utilities themselves, have made commitments to storage initiatives. Progressive leaders include Hanwha SolarOne, Trina Solar, SunPower, Duke Energy, NRG Energy and Southern California Edison.

Distributed solar storage is a smaller component of the overall mix of installed storage required by these mandates, but should not be overlooked. For example in 2013, 10 MW of the 110 MW of storage installed was behind the meter. Nonetheless, we see its growing importance highlighted by moves from residential solar installers — like SolarCity — to integrate storage into their offerings.

The outlook for the industry is bright and advancements are sure to help drive solar energy further into the mainstream.

With a deep understanding of these market trends, Intersolar North America will offer insight into the energy storage market at this year’s event. For the second year in a row, the exhibition will have a dedicated energy storage section. Intersolar North America will also host presentations from industry professionals at the exhibit hall at a new electrical energy storage (ees) Forum and an energy storage conference track.

Lead image: Iceberg via Shutterstock

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Markus Elsässer is the founder and CEO of Solar Promotion, an internationally operating, private trade fair company with a focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Under Markus’s leadership Solar Promotion International’s flagship event series, Intersolar, has grown to become the world´s largest trade fair for solar technologies with over 3,500 exhibitors and 120,000 visitors. Building on Intersolar's success in the European market, Intersolar North America opened in 2008 in San Francisco and became the second exhibition location in the series, followed by Intersolar India and Intersolar China. This year marks the debut of Intersolar's newest conference, Intersolar South America in Sao Paulo. Prior to founding Solar Promotion International, Markus Elsässer worked for a German manufacturer of solar thermal systems. Markus holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Stuttgart in Germany.

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