The next great step for solar power is upon us, energy storage. Over the past half decade or so one of the biggest problems that has plagued photovoltaic solar power is the lack of ability to store the energy produced by solar panels when they produce more energy than is used by the home, office, grid, etc. or when they can’t produce enough energy to meet those needs. Batteries, which make the issues almost obsolete, have existed, but they’ve been prohibitively expensive in the past.
That’s changing. Yesterday (Dec. 17) SunPower and Sunverge announced that they would start offering energy storage with SunPower’s solar power arrays for homeowners in the U.S. and Australia. Today, GTM Research introduced a new report, The Future of Solar-Plus-Storage in the U.S., which anticipates that the market for distributed solar with energy storage will grow to a $1 billion market by 2018. That’s explosive growth from the $42 million anticipated in spending on such systems in the U.S. in 2014.
SunPower had already announced plans to offer solar power energy storage systems to homeowners in 2014 under partnerships through Volkswagen, Audi, and others. However, when it introduced the partnership in August it just said that would offer an energy storage option to them in the future. That future is apparently early 2015 when the systems will become widely commercially available, according to SunPower. The systems will combine SunPower’s PV panels and solar systems with Sunverge's Solar Integration System (SIS) energy storage systems
”Over the next five years, we expect to see a disruptive shift in the energy market, with solar power, energy storage, smart devices, energy management technologies and electric vehicles being combined," said SunPower CEO Tom Werner. "As we join Sunverge's adaptable and reliable storage solutions with SunPower's high performance solar technology, we're giving consumers a 'Smart Energy' solution that will deliver unprecedented levels of personalization, value and control. Providing this integrated solution to utilities allows them to access the benefits of rooftop solar and storage at significant scale."
Other companies, among them NRG Home, are also offering residential solar systems with energy storage. SolarCity has also offered such a system with energy storage for businesses as well.
These are good harbingers for the energy storage business, as is the new GTM Research report. That report anticipates that utility customers with grid-tied distributed solar systems (rooftop and small business solar) will reach 318 cumulative megawatts in 2018.
The report looks at multiple reasons for the rapid expansion of solar with energy storage. Among the chief impacts are California’s mandate for the state to procure 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage for its grid as well as Tesla’s Giga factory, which will manufacture advanced batteries in the U.S. for its vehicles and purposes like solar energy storage.
Still, there’s a far way to go before solar with energy becomes a common household item. The report noted that California and Hawaii are leading the charge but outside of that only a few energy companies like PJM are working on such programs. “Currently, only PJM and a handful of other pilot programs allow participation of aggregated solar-plus-storage in wholesale markets or for grid services,” said Senior Energy Storage Analyst and report author Ravi Manghani.Tweet