Energy storage focus for Intersolar shows


Intersolar North America runs from July 9–11 in San Francisco, and a dominant theme this year will be energy storage. In other developments the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) was launched by the Department of Energy in March and includes major US research universities.

For anyone looking to find out the latest on solar policy and technology trends, and/or build up supply chains, then the Intersolar Shows in Europe and North America have always been key dates for the diary.

Intersolar provides a one-stop shop for all things solar: from advances in solar module and cell technology to balance of system components to energy storage, as well as the practical applications of new solar technology. The first of the two major shows that took place was Intersolar Europe, which re-opened its doors at Messe München, Germany, earlier in June.

Intersolar North America meanwhile takes place in July. A dominant theme for both shows this year has been energy storage.


Under the motto Connecting Solar Business, visitors to Intersolar Europe found out about recent trends and developments across the solar industry from manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, service providers and partners working in this sector, according to Solar Promotion International GmbH, the organisers of the Intersolar shows.

At this year's European event, around 1500 exhibitors showcased their products and services in the fields of photovoltaics (PV), PV production technology, energy storage systems and solar thermal technology.

Storage focus

With subsidies for solar power storage systems kicking off in Germany in May, the show's special focus on energy storage proved timely.

As of May 1, Germany's federal government began subsidising the purchase of new battery-based storage systems for PV installations, awarding up to €660/kWh of solar power output. KfW Bankengruppe – the German government-owned development bank – says it plans to provide €25mn in funding in the first year as well as offering low-interest loans covering the purchase price.

The use of decentralised energy storage systems is considered to be a key component of the "Energiewende", Germany's energy system turnaround plan. According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), a local battery-based storage unit can help consumers living in a single family home equipped with a PV installation to reduce the amount of energy purchased from the grid by up to 60%.

“We expect there will be a high demand for this technology,” says Dr. Günther Häckl, President of BSW-Solar, the German Solar Industry Association. “The new subsidies will send storage system usage skyrocketing.”

For the entire period of remuneration, production must be reduced to 60% of the plant capacity in solar power systems working in tandem with government-sponsored storage systems, which means that operators play a role in avoiding output peaks. Distribution grids no longer have to be designed to keep up with the maximum feed-in rates of a solar power system, which reduces the required line capacity and the need for new power lines to be laid, BSW-Solar notes.

In addition to providing relief to the power grids, storage systems also have a stabilising effect on electricity prices, the association says, citing the conclusion the Fraunhofer ISE reaches in its 2013 Storage Study. The use of storage systems connected to the grid can reduce peaks in feed-in capacity by up to 40%. The absorption capacity of local power grids would thereby by increased by up to two-thirds without additional grid expansion.

BSW-Solar says there is a high level of interest in battery storage systems, in particular from operators of small solar power systems with capacities of up to 10kW of inverter output, such as are typically found in the single or multiple family household segment. This was confirmed by a BSW-Solar survey of providers of storage technology for solar power systems conducted in late 2012.

According to the survey, nearly one out of two new investors in PV and one out of three system operators expressed an interest in battery storage systems. Sales, however, have so far not reflected this level of interest. Until now, the biggest obstacle to the sale of battery storage systems has been the continuing high investment costs. “Once the storage market takes off, we can expect costs to fall due to higher demands and the emergence of economies of scale and technological advances,” says Häckl.

North American Intersolar event

As with its European counterpart, the 2013 Intersolar North America Exhibition (which runs July 9–11 in San Francisco) will run a similar conference alongside the exhibition and also unveil a special exhibition segment dedicated to energy storage. Located on Level 2 in the Moscone West Hall, this will also tap industry experts' predictions for the strongest growth markets.

The US solar market is projected to add 3.9GW of new capacity in 2013, according to EuPD Research, Intersolar North America's organisers point out. “As solar power becomes more and more cost competitive, investors, utilities and power producers are looking to incorporate energy storage into plant design. In the US alone, the grid storage market could reach 4 GW by 2016.”

Recently, the California Public Utilities Commission set a procurement target of 50MW of storage by 2021 for utility Southern California Edison and is working to set procurement targets across the state. Additionally, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) was launched by the Department of Energy in March and includes major US research universities. It will receive up to $120mn to develop new energy storage technologies.

Special presentations on energy storage will be held at Intersolar North America on the PV Energy World stage. Additionally, one track at the Intersolar Conference (July 8–11) in the InterContinental Hotel will be dedicated to the subject. “The increased number of PV systems being integrated into electrical grids requires storage solutions on different time scales to secure the feeding-in of electricity, and to preserve the quality and reliability of the power supply. Furthermore the integration of storage transforms fluctuating power generators like PV into controllable power systems,” said Dr. Matthias Vetter of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.

Interested in a backgrounder on Energy Storage?

For more information on Intersolar US, click here.

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Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling