How the Solar Industry is Riding the Energy Storage Wave
Story by Sara Carbone, CollectiveSun Content Marketing Manager
Companies all along the solar value chain are always looking to remain flexible and relevant in the changing renewables market. Adding energy storage to their suite of offerings has become an increasingly popular way to do this, and our team at CollectiveSun understands how essential energy storage is to the companies we work with.
The energy storage market has experienced incredible growth in the past few years. 2020’s Q4 saw a new record for US energy storage with a total of 2,156 MWh of new energy storage systems, 182% up from Q3 2020. America is projected to lead storage deployment globally, with a total capacity of 371 GWh by 2030. The recent increase in California solar penetration has created a market for 7,000 MWh of storage and areas like Texas and New England are experiencing similar conditions that will create the same opportunities.
As lithium-ion battery costs continue to fall, energy storage pricing has become more attractive. In the past six years there has been a 60% price drop in utility-scale energy storage, making storage and renewables a more cost-effective option for utilities, while the long duration energy storage market technology has continued steady growth.
Solar contractors, along with the broader solar industry, are capitalizing on the exponential growth in energy storage.
“The renewables industry eagerly awaits what most believe will be a significant shift away from the Trump Administration’s policies and actions regarding the current climate crisis.”
“ Battery storage often allows contractors to close more solar sales given it brings a greater economic payback when coupled with solar. ”
The importance of energy storage
Energy storage plays an important role in the integration of renewable energy in the US, and some in the industry assert that increased use of energy storage is the key to a clean energy transition. It helps states achieve renewable portfolio standards and greenhouse gas emissions targets. Battery storage also reduces the use of fossil fuels to meet expensive peak demand periods and mitigates the need for the build-out of transmission and distribution infrastructure.
Battery storage balances electric loads by creating a source of energy that’s charged when solar generation is high and demand is low. It can be discharged rapidly during low generation and high demand and fills in gaps during routine maintenance or a cloudy day. By decentralizing where consumers get their energy, energy storage creates a protective bubble during disruptive events such as grid disruptions and outages from weather or natural disasters. Finally, it can power up offline thermal generators more efficiently than diesel generators, something that is important in areas of the country where the transition to renewable energy is occurring more slowly.
The integration of energy storage in the solar industry
From solar manufacturers to standalone energy, solar companies are tapping the opportunities presented by battery storage. Panasonic and Schneider Electric are large manufacturers that have embraced a fully integrated solar+storage solution to capture more market value. Manufacturer Q CELLS recently acquired Geli, resulting in an integrated energy solution that brought together Q CELLS’ solar hardware and Geli’s technology in design, automation and storage management. LG Chem created a new corporation, LG Energy Solution, dedicated to battery materials, cells, pack manufacturing, e-platform and sales that includes a new battery offering and an advanced remote monitoring system.
Companies that move into the energy storage market tend to position energy storage in ways that highlight their particular suite of offerings. For example, inverter companies focus on their technology as the prime element in solar installations and a perfect spot for energy storage integration. There have also been developments in financing that makes storage more accessible. Panasonic recently created PowerOn, an energy storage financing program that allows certified installers to offer 100% financing to homeowners who purchase Panasonic modules and EverVolt batteries.
There are a number of technological innovations intended to lower the installation cost of energy storage and facilitate its integration with solar. These have included module-level micro-storage, modularization, and coupling with microgrids. Span is just one example of a smart home monitoring company whose smart panel design allows for integration with LG, Panasonic and Tesla batteries for ease of installation or upgrades. The combination of solar, electric vehicles and storage is an area of growth, and innovation in EV batteries is pushing the growth of energy storage in large and small scale commercial applications.
Software has also been a driving force behind the increased adoption of energy storage. A number of providers of software and software-as-a-service platforms have designed solutions to promote the integration of battery storage. Some design software companies are hurrying to streamline the process as many installers are using multiple tools, accounts and subscriptions. Energy Toolbase recently integrated their developer sales and modeling platform with Dynapower’s energy storage offering to allow contractors to run dispatch simulations and savings analysis when modeling their projects. In late 2020, Aurora Solar integrated storage into their design software.
Solar contractors are embracing solar + storage
A number of contractors are looking to add energy storage to their businesses. Battery storage often allows contractors to close more solar sales given it brings a greater economic payback when coupled with solar. A recent survey of installers found that over 70% of respondents currently offer storage today due to the rise in consumer interest from concerns about rolling blackouts, natural disasters and emergencies. In their 2020 list of Top Solar + Storage Installers, SPW found that there was a 50-company increase since their 2019 list.
National installers like Tesla, SunPower, Enphase, Sonnen and Sunrun have capitalized on the energy storage market for years and often include financing products that encompass the complete solar+storage solution. In early 2021 Momentum Solar, a top U.S. residential solar contractor, partnered with Enphase, a leading supplier of solar+storage systems, to promote and install their storage systems as a total home energy management solution.
Back in 2017 GTM predicted that smaller solar installers would tap storage more and more, asserting that “we can see energy storage emerging as a product that will likely be paired with solar as time-of-use rates and demand charges become more common.” They also pointed to the complexities of pairing solar systems with energy storage (i.e. TOU rates, demand charges, consumer preferences) as a potential barrier to adoption by smaller installers. However, it appears that many long-tail installers have developed a viable business model and are now offering energy storage as an add-on to solar.
The SEIA states that given that more energy storage means a reduction in grid management issues and therefore more solar, “storage puts the power to facilitate integration directly into the hands of solar developers.” Additionally, the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act, which would offer a stand-alone ITC for energy storage, is expected to pass in Congress this year.
All this means good news for stakeholders in the solar industry seeking to take advantage of the energy storage boom and play a part in helping America transition to clean energy in the next decades.
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