The image that “off-grid” solar conjures of small cabins or individual solar home systems is outdated in today’s world. Yes, it’s true, off-grid storage applications do include remote homes and even remote communities in some of world’s developing regions, but off-grid solar makes possible a wide range of applications from residential to commercial, and continues on a path of rapid growth.
According to a 2016 Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) industry research report, the off-grid solar sector should reach $3.1 billion by 2020. The energy storage sector is positioned to follow the same upward growth trend. Today, off-grid applications ranging from private residences and eco-resorts, to remote lighting, telecom and community microgrids in developing countries, benefit from battery storage solutions.
Opportunities for growth in the off-grid energy storage market are found in both developing and developed regions of the world. Let’s take the oil and gas industry which has seen the pairing of two unlikely industries — solar and big oil. In recent years, oil companies have relied on solar power with battery storage to operate remote well pumps in some of the harshest environments throughout the world to avoid costly downtime. Solar power is displacing previous power methods such as diesel generators and pneumatic pumps, which have both economic and environmental repercussions. The use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind with battery storage are now in place to operate many of these remote oil production sites.
In developing regions, Bloomberg estimates that 1.2 billion people worldwide still do not have daily access to reliable electricity. This has led to the increase in installations of off-grid microgrids in these remote areas. In Colombia, the government, through its Ministry of Mines and Energy, issued a mandate to expand the availability of electricity to the country’s northern remote Choco region bordering Panama along the Caribbean Sea. The project involved building solar microgrids to provide power for five indigenous communities. Having reliable electricity available for most of the day enables these villages to expand and improve the quality of life of residents, as well as enhance commercial business activities, which benefits the country as a whole.
Ganesh Balasubramanian is Director of New Market Development for Trojan Battery Co., LLC.
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