The big news of the year in the energy storage sector was the purchase of SolarCity by Tesla, which was announced on August 1. While that generated the headlines, lower profile progress seems to be accelerating. Recently, two significant projects were announced in California and a third in Hawaii.
The category is set to move from the periphery to the center of energy sector. Indeed, it seems to be the beneficiary of powerful and interrelated forces: Technical advances, the desire of regulators and users to cut energy use and the resulting strong business case. A report released late last month by Navigant says that the category’s short-term prospects are bright:
In the next 3-5 years, the storage industry is positioned to truly scale and echo the explosive growth seen in the solar PV industry. Incremental improvements in energy storage technologies, developments in regional regulatory and market drivers, and emerging business models are poised to make energy storage a growing and viable part of the electricity grid.
This week, solar firm HelioPower said that it is using Sharp’s SmartStorage technology in concert with its technology at the facilities of Blisterpak, an industrial firm in Commerce, CA. The company says that the 120 kW system is being paired with HelioPower’s 135 kW photovoltaic system and its PredictEnergy Commercial Energy Management System. HelioPower said that the system, which will be used to store energy for use during peak demand times, is expected to save Blisterpak $42,000 annually, according to the press release.
The deal is a sign of how close renewables and storage have become. “We believe that this is a growing trend since both technologies are highly complementary and distributed,” wrote Mo Rousso, the Founder and President of HelioPower to Energy Manager Today in response to an email from Energy Manager Today. “It allows behind the meter rate payers to control both aspects, energy and demand, of their bill and more naturally conforms to their load profile. This is especially true as utilities shift their tariffs to higher demand charges.”
Tesla, of course, is central to the action both in the board room and in the field. In mid-September, it agreed to build a utility-scale storage system for Southern California Edison. The system, which will be located at the Mira Loma substation, will store 80MWh of energy, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2013, utilities in the state were mandated to deploy 1.3 GW of storage by 2020.
This week, Stem activated an energy storage platform at Wet’n’Wild, a water park in the Oahu city of Kapolei. The 108 kW/216 kWh system, according to Electric Light and Power, was created with the support of Hawaii’s Energy Excelerator, the Hawaiian Electric Company and the U.S. Department of energy’s SunShot Initiative.
The story says that the goal of the three-year initiative is to project to deploy Stem storage systems to 30 local businesses in the state. The goal is to improve reliability for facilities that use solar and other renewable forms of energy.
The regulatory elements in the Tesla project with SoCal and the Stem project in Hawaii are not unique. Last month, New York City announced its first ever energy storage deployment target. The city said that the goal is deployment of 100 MWh by 2020. Also last month, Massachusetts said it will offer as much as $20 million in storage grants this fall, according to Microgrid Knowledge. The goal is to add 600 MW of storage by 2025.
Trends are particularly strong when driven by multiple drivers. The technology is evolving as the advantages of using stored energy when utility rates are highest and the grid is most stressed become clear. The trend may accelerate further if the number of state and/or local government mandating storage grows. Indeed, the Tesla/SolarCity eventually may be seen as a symptom of nascent growth as a cause.