The concept of combining solar power with energy storage technology has caught on, but is still deployed only in niche applications. However, a Lux Research report says that while the market continues to be small, it will grow at a “torrid” pace and reach $2.8 billion by 2018, with 711 MW in combined solar and storage hardware.
In the next 5 years, Lux predicts that in strong solar markets like Germany, Japan and parts of the US, sales of the combined storage system will be driven by grid related demand. And in emerging markets, demand will catch up once the cost of storage goes down. But in off-grid applications, demand will be lower but suppliers will see big profits because energy storage will fare better when compared to high diesel prices.
The idea of coupling solar panels with battery storage has given a new boost for both markets, says Lux. Industry stakeholders have begun positioning their products to show how the coupling can leverage efficiency and cost savings. When a consumer or energy company combines solar modules with an inverter or battery, each hardware piece contributes towards higher efficiency and lower cost, but the crux of creativity is the system architecture.
The top market for this combination is the grid-related market, but Lux says this is also the hardest to penetrate. With the explosive growth in solar power and decreasing costs, feed-in tariffs have shrunk as the focus has shifted to innovation and other policies to stoke demand.
Japan will lead the grid market, driven by high electricity rates and a solar surge, at 381 MW by 2018, followed by Germany with 94 MW and the US at 75 MW. The telecom sector will drive the most demand in off-grid markets, followed by microgrids. In the emerging markets, Lux recommends that those interested in going after this market should get ready to jump in when energy storage systems drop below $1,000/kWh and the markets come online between 2020 and 2030.
The Department of Energy is also focused on boosting the energy storage market. A $120 million DOE program that helps spur innovation and encourage utilities to implement energy storage technologies could give rise to opportunities for wider implementation of storage technologies, according to an August issue brief from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI).
A consortium of DOE national labs, universities and private companies will work on advancing storage that supplies community and vehicle needs. The program will work on providing 5 times the energy storage supply at one-fifth the cost of today’s lithium ion storage by 2017.