Solar Grid Storage Saves the Sunshine for a Rainy Day

Fossil fuels like gasoline, or even coal, have a unique characteristic that we never thought about until we thought about trying to replace them. That is the fact that, not only are they energy sources, but they are energy sources that store the energy they contain, to be released whenever needed. That is not that case for wind power or solar. They do not come packaged with their own built-in storage capacity.

Or at least they didn’t before the folks at Solar Grid Storage, sensing a business opportunity, came up with a way to package solar energy and energy storage into an integrated system.

Combining technological innovation with business innovation, they retain ownership of their storage systems, providing storage-as-a-service to their customers. By maintaining the storage asset and dispatching power to the grid as needed, they can derive revenue from the grid support market, to help finance the storage assets. At the same time, their systems include the power inverter needed to convert the DC power coming off the PV arrays into grid synchronized AC power. This saves their customers the expense of installing the inverters, which all other grid-supported solar PV systems require.

The systems also provide resilience and stability to the grid, and they answer directly the FERC’s orders to grid operators “to develop and adopt programs aimed at creating and delivering fast reacting services that help balance power.” The net result is a more reliable grid, even during times of high stress. This is crucial to mission-critical operations and highly desirable everywhere else.

California regulators recently set new targets for energy storage capacity, recognizing the criticality of this capability to the continued growth of renewables, as well as the stability of the grid. A full 1.325 GW of storage, much of it from independent developers, is expected to come online by 2020.

These solar microgrids have already been deployed in a NJ school district that was shut down last year by Superstorm Sandy, at Konterra’s corporate headquarters in Laurel, Maryland, and at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

The company has partnered with solar developers including Advanced Solar Products, groSolar, Standard Solar, Solaire Generation, Solis Partners, and Argand Energy.

Tom Leyden, Solar Grid Storage CEO, whose name corresponds to that of the Leyden Jar, one of the world’s first electrical energy storage devices, said, “We are very proud to be working with some of the most highly respected project developers in the nation to integrate storage into their projects.  Pairing solar with storage will help accelerate solar’s contribution to the energy mix and strengthen grid resiliency.”
SolarCity, recently announced a cooperative venture with Tesla Motors, a similar system called DemandLogic, which will provide batteries for solar storage projects aimed at commercial buildings.

According to Travis Hoium at Motley Fool, Sunpower is also testing a battery storage system that it hopes to commercialize in a year or two.

These systems are all based on established Lithium-ion battery technology, the same batteries currently being used in cell phones, laptops and electric cars. Meanwhile, other storage options, such as utility scale flow batteries and super-capacitors continue to be developed vying for a place in which will surely be a lucrative market.