Wednesday, September 3, 2008

SOLION--Energy Storage Solutions for Grid-Tied PV

In the U.S., much of the solar buzz over the past week has been centered around the series of blockbuster fundraising rounds for thin-film startups, namely AVA Solar ($104 million) and Nanosolar ($300 million). Xunlight also got into the action with a more modest $11 million capital injection.

However, the announcement that Saft is tying up with Conergy and Tenesol launch SOLION, a large scale energy storage deployment project to supplement residential photovoltaic systems, was a more meaningful development for me, simply because I have argued for some time that the development of effective energy storage solutions is going to be one of the keys to a solar revolution. GreenCarCongresss sums up the role of energy storage quite nicely:

The role of energy storage in an on-grid application—such as that of a residence with solar panels connected to the grid—is to store excess PV energy until it is needed. Effectively, energy storage will ‘time-shift’ PV energy produced during the day, peaking at noon, to make it available on demand. This will both maximize local consumption and enhance the efficiency of the PV system. Surplus energy can also be fed back into the grid, for which the owner of the PV system would be remunerated at a higher tariff.

Energy storage will also increase security of supply while making individual consumers less dependent on the grid and help to boost the development of energy self-sufficient houses and buildings and contribute to the continuous growth of PV as part of the global energy mix...

The main benefit of on-grid energy storage for utilities is that it will reduce the peak load on their grid while at the same time making PV a source of predictable, dispatchable power that they can call on when needed.

Critics of renewable energy and the fossil/nuclear energy establishment like to highlight the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, e.g. click here. I will leave it to the words of Hermann Scheer, one of the most forceful and eloquent advocates for renewable energy, for a insightful rebuttal in his book, Energy Autonomy:

In a strongly centralized and internationalized nuclear/fossil energy supply system, this simultaneity [of production and utilization of energy] is, on principle, not possible. The storage warehouse for petroleum is the oil tanker, for coal it is the coal heap, for natural gas the major storage caverns and the gas tank, for nuclear energy the fuel rod store, and for water power (if necessary) the reservoir. Transport and distribution systems--pipelines, tanker ships and trucks--take on supplementary storage function. Or else it is the power plants themselves that operate as steam power plants, that is, they produce steam, which they must then keep holding in side the power plants as a reserve in case there is a rapid increase in production. All nuclear power plants and all large fossil power plants are of this type...

In its campaign against renewable energy, the energy business never mentions its own storage capacity, as if this were not as easily usable as a reserve for solar- and wind-based electricity...The possibility that the sun might not be shining or the wind might stop blowing just when these sources are most needed to produce electricity is presented as an insurmountable obstacle--as if, by way of contrast, extra coal or uranium could be hauled out of the mines at the very moment there is a spike in demand for coal- or nuclear-based electricity.
Saft, an established name in the battery business, will develop lithium ion battery modules, while Conergy and Tenesol will develop ancillary components. In pilot trials, 75 SOLION energy storage systems will be deployed--25 in Germany and 50 in France--in order to validate the performance of these systems.

It is innovative game-changing initiatives, such as SOLION, that can fully harness the true potential of solar power. We'll be keeping tabs on the progress of SOLION right here at the solar coaster.


Nils said...

I completely agree with your excitement about new storage approaches. Cracking the nut of residential energy storage will be a key step to keeping the growth of solar electricity on an exponential curve.

What do you think of the Nocera announcement a few weeks ago from MIT, about a new catalyst for splitting hydrogen via electrolysis much more cheaply than previous catalysts? Do you think there's any chance of using hydrogen as a residential energy storage medium?

Jeremiah said...

The part that upsets me the most is the profits the damn electric companies are making!!! I really like your post and the solar information you are sharing! I do the same keep up the good work and maybe we can all go green!

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