NEWS: Solar and Storage On the Grid – and In the Air!

Posted by Lexie Briggs on Apr 22, 2016 12:37:46 PM


Every week we see news of advanced energy companies and technologies challenging the energy status quo and growing the industry. This week was no different, with the news that the United States had reached 1 million solar installations. As always, AEE’s members are right at the fore, driving the industry and the economy forward.

Now, solar customers can say they’re truly “one in a million,” as Greentech Media reports that there have so far been a million solar installations in the United States. (We’re actually a little behind that news cycle, as GTM and Solar Energy Industry Association researchers estimate that the millionth installation came online in early March.) Even with a million installations nationwide, solar remains a relatively small piece of the electricity mix nationwide. But its growth is undeniable.

“It took us 40 years to get to 1 million installations, and it will take us only two years to get to 2 million,” said Dan Whitten, VP of communications for SEIA.

One of the companies driving that growth is AEE member SolarCity, which, according to Clean Technica, installed a full third of all U.S. residential rooftop solar installations in 2015. Earlier this month, SolarCity announced that it had closed two financing agreements for a total of $338 million with finance giants Credit Suisse and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The financing will allow SolarCity to continue to develop its solar installations and continue the development of its battery storage systems nationwide.

Speaking of storage, another AEE member company, AES Storage, has been in the news this week as it partners with Panasonic to develop a 10 MW battery project in India. As Greentech Media reports, India is a “natural target for energy storage,” with both an outage-prone grid and a commitment to developing advanced energy resources. The hope is that the project, expected to be completed next year at Panasonic’s “Technopark” appliance factory in Haryana, will serve both to provide power for the facility and help stabilize the regional grid. 

Another AEE member, Lockheed Martin, is also getting into the energy storage business, and it’s a growing one. Last year, global revenue in the energy storage market grew fivefold, from $462 million in 2014 to $2.1 billion in 2015. Lockheed Martin is bringing a wealth of expertise and well, wealth, to its strategy to enter the market.

The strategy, according to Lockheed Martin Advanced Energy’s Richard Brody and Brad Fiebig, is two-fold. First, the company plans to make lithium-ion storage systems more like industrial equipment: “a purpose-built design that's built, integrated and backed by one company, just like every other power product designed for the grid.” Lockheed Martin has engineered a complete system that includes everything from the batteries themselves to the management and AC interconnections. It’s plug and play.

Second, the company is commercializing a new flow-battery technology it acquired when it brought the assets and team behind the Sun Catalytix Corp. Currently, flow batteries require caustic and relatively rare materials, like zinc-bromide or vanadium. Fiebig says flow batteries based on the Sun Catalytix technology use an aqueous electrolyte with a mild pH rather than an acidic compound, allowing for cheaper materials that need to be replaced much less often.

Finally, AEE member SunPower is making headlines once again with its role in Solar Impulse 2, the plane that flies on the power of sunshine. Solar Impulse 2 uses SunPower solar cells to keep the plane aloft. After a 10-month stay in Hawaii to repair batteries (which were overtaxed on the flight from Japan to Hawaii), CNN reports that the plane lifted off just before sunrise on Thursday. It’s currently somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, making its way to San Francisco. In its blog, SunPower quotes Andre Borschberg, one of the plane’s copilots and Solar Impulse’s CEO: “To fly with the sun, day and night, we had to build an aircraft that is extremely energy efficient. These technologies that provide energy efficiency can be used in your home, in your car, in the appliances that you buy.”

Well said, Andre, and we wish you a smooth flight.

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Topics: News Update