Advanced Energy Perspectives

NEWS: ‘Nodes and Connections’: How Solar-Plus-Storage Could Be a Game Changer Everywhere

Posted by Lexie Briggs

Apr 10, 2015 1:19:00 PM

    

dispatches-from-the-utility-of-the-future-photo-src-madalyn_k

Featured image courtesy of Madalyn Knebel.

Advanced energy is an industry full of innovative technologies. This week it’s time for energy storage to shine—and we mean that literally. At the top of the news this week is energy storage systems paired with small-scale solar installations, creating mini-microgrids that can power homes, offices, even a network of communities – creating islands of energy self-sufficiency.

Solar-plus-storage is the hot new thing. According to Rocky Mountain Institute, these systems will be economically feasible for “significant numbers” of consumers to be self-sufficient within the next 10 to 15 years. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? RMI is calling this “load defection,” and finds the potential to be “large” – large enough for utilities to worry about it. How utilities and their regulators respond to the possibility could make the advanced energy combo a boon – or a bust.

We already know how valuable connecting an electric vehicle to a house with a rooftop solar array can be (read EVs and PV: ‘Great Tastes that Taste Great Together’), and utilities are able leverage some of that value—if they act now. RMI urges utilities and regulators to create price structures and systems that support business models “in which distributed energy resources such as solar PV and batteries — and their inherent benefits and costs — are appropriately valued as part of an integrated grid.” For more on what that might look like, check out AEEI’s Benefit-Cost Analysis for Distributed Energy Resources.

The value of distributed generation and storage is becoming increasingly clear around the world. Late last month, Imergy and AEE Member company SunEdison announced they would be partnering on an initiative to bring electricity to parts of rural India. Just as much of the world leapfrogged over landlines in favor of cell phones, Imergy and SunEdison are poised to leapfrog over an unreliable or nonexistent grid system in rural India. Imergy is selling 1,000 vanadium flow batteries to SunEdison to pair with solar systems that will be installed at – wait for it – cell towers in rural India.

“The model works very well in this regard—targeting areas that have no grid or where the grid is extremely weak,” added Jack Stark, Chief Financial Officer of Imergy, in an interview with Advanced Energy Perspectives. The cell towers act as anchor points to many rural communities, and the telecommunications company will pay for much of the build-out. “This announcement has so many ‘firsts’ ” attached to it, Stark said. “It’s a watershed announcement." 

So what does rural India have to do with the U.S. grid? It’s about the way things will work in the future – “nodes and connections,” says Stark. Whether for energy or information, there will be connection points that go two ways. “Download and upload capability,” he says.

In other AEE member news, Opower was featured in a story from The Economist featuring behavioral energy efficiency and FirstFuel Software raised $23 million in Series C financing. Clearly, AEE members are on the vanguard of these nodes and connections.

For a better look at the global storage market, as well as the size and growth of the entire advanced energy economy, check out our latest report. Download Advanced Energy Now 2015 Market Report below.

Download Advanced Energy Now  2015 Market Report

Topics: News Update

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