Intersolar NA: Hot topic storage, but business models still rare

Romina Arcamone Garcia from Trojan (left) explains the advanced lead-acid 2.4 kW J200-RE 22 V battery (Photo: Hans-Christoph Neidlein)
Romina Arcamone Garcia from Trojan (left) explains the advanced lead-acid 2.4 kW J200-RE 22 V battery (Photo: Hans-Christoph Neidlein)

With around 18,000 visitors and 550 exhibitors Intersolar North America closed its door Thursday afternoon in San Francisco. The hot topic was solar plus storage, but especially in the residential sector economic viability is still lacking.

Around 100 exhibiting companies presented themselves in the ees – energy storage section of the trade show and several conference sessions focused on the topic. Although the numbers and insights the analysts from GTM Research and IHS presented sometimes curbed the hype a little and brought a more realistic view. 18 MW of solar paired storage systems have been installed in 2015 in the U.S., this year an increase to 91 MW total installed systems is expected.

Though the expectations for the growth within the next five years are high, GTM expects that by 2021 solar paired storage will cross 1.2 GW in the U.S., with a 75 percent share of utility scale plus storage installations. Driving forces are California, Hawaii and some east-coast states where electricity peak load tariffs give especially commercial customers a certain incentive to invest in storage or demand side management or utilities are expected increasingly to remunerate grid services. But in other parts of the U.S. electricity rates are rising slightly, but are still too low to compensate the still relatively high investments costs of storage, Ravi Manghani, Director Energy Storage of GTM Research, had to admit. And discussion questions for specific examples for a profitable return of invest for energy storage in the U.S. remained largely unanswered.

“Utility scale storage can be increasingly a business case in the U.S. within the next five years, but residential storage is still not really economical, not even for back-up solutions,” IHS analyst Sam Wilkinson stressed frankly.

Around 400 residential storage systems Sonnen has so far sold in the U.S., according to Olaf Löhr, Director Business Development. At the moment the company manufactures around 100 units monthly. Costs for a 4 kWh/3 kW system are around $ 7,000.

U.S. manufacturers like MK Battery or Trojan presented advanced lead-acid batteries at Intersolar North America, mainly for off-grid applications. Primarily, they optimize durability and efficiency for partial state of cycle. MK Battery plan to distribute its Ultra Battery in Q1 2017 that also includes a battery management system, Bruce Habeck, Global Director Energy Storage Group said. Trojan showcased its optimized battery J200-RE 22 V for the first time in the U.S. Loading cycles would be improved by 15 percent Romina Arcamone Garcia, Market Manager Renewable Energy & Backup Power with Trojan Battery told S&WE. With wholesale prices between $120-160/kWh the battery would be significantly cheaper than Li-Ion batteries, she stressed. However they need more space, are much heavier and need maintenance since they are fluid systems. Therefore the company sees the main application in off-grid areas.

With its hybrid-ion technology Aquion Energy offers an interesting product, that is cradle to cradle certified and 100 percent recyclable.

Hans-Christoph Neidlein

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