A Healthy Energy Storage and Solar Industry

A Healthy Energy Storage and Solar Industry

By Bruce Naegel, August 2016 —

One part of the Sustainable Silicon Valley Bay Area Net Positive vision for 2050 is to generate more electricity than we use. To minimize greenhouse gases, all electricity will need to be generated by renewable means (Wind, Water, and Solar). That means the energy storage and solar industry needs to be healthy to continue growth in this segment.

Intesolar-Show Floor -means Healthy Storage and Solar Industry
A healthy storage and solar industry has a large presence in Moscone.

Intersolar / ESS is a yearly trade show held in San Francisco and is the largest solar show in the US. It is a great place to check on industry health, and that industry looks quite healthy. The show filled three floors of the Moscone West [1].

Showing testing to failure
DNV-GL test environment stressing battery to failure limit requirement for a healthy storage and solar industry

Energy Storage Safety (No Batteries On Fire)

A healthy energy storage and solar industry needs safe batteries. Storage smooths out the intermittent nature of wind and solar. In addition, electrical energy storage supplies a range of services to the grid including frequency regulation and eliminating demand charges.

As energy density increases over time, batteries become cheaper and better suited to all applications. This increase in storage density usage means an increasing need for energy storage safety. Energy storage systems must endure environmental stresses and not go into thermal runaway and catch fire.

Leading developers of energy storage like the Yi Cui group at Stanford are developing thermal fuses for safety. Another developer, DLV-GL, highlighted a set of safety best practices and testing facilities tat Intersolar. DNV-GL provides this expertise with installation and consulting services. DLV-GL started their work on electric ships where reliability is key to a successful sea voyage.

DNV-GL leads in making their findings part of the Gridstor open source standard for grid battery safety. DNV-GL assembled Gridstor’s current knowledge base [2]. Testing includes pushing batteries to their limits to see when they catch fire. The picture above shows that testing in process. This level of safety engineering indicates a healthy energy storage and solar industry.

This picture shows the difference in energy consumption by circuit
Difference in energy consumption by circuit

Next Level of Electrical Energy Monitoring

A healthy energy storage and solar industry involves the end user customer in the process. A set of devices is developing to monitor energy consumption at home. The industry took technology from the standard for measuring AC current flow and sized it for the home market. One can now put a sensor on each circuit breaker line so the user can then see what in the home is using the most energy.

Two companies, Curb [3] and eGauge Systems [4], showcased their versions of this technology at Intersolar. Both of them cost under $500 and both have multiple sensors for individual lines within a circuit breaker box. They also have display systems capable of showing what is happening. A display mode from Curb is shown above, listing consumption differences between the circuit breaker lines.

Huawei Healthy Storage and Solar Industry
A healthy energy storage and solar industry has large installations. The picture shows a 2 GW solar plant in China.

Huawei and Very Large Solar installations

A healthy energy storage and solar industry stretches the limits of what can be done. Most solar installations are not quite the size of a large power plant. The vision of Net Positive relies more on a distributed solar power infrastructure. However, it is still useful to see how large a PV (photovoltaic) solar installation can get.

Huawei is a leading Chinese vendor for networking and telecommunications gear. At Intersolar, they showcased their large installations including their 2 GW PV solar installation. This is currently the world’s largest PV installation [5]. Note that, this installation is in the size range of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power plant. Since the majority of the Huawei installations are in China (including the 2 GW one), this means China burns less coal and creates less pollution. This also provides proof of what is possible in large scale solar.

Key Takeaways from InterSolar ESS

It is great to see a healthy energy storage and solar industry. We need an emphasis on safety in energy storage to accelerate storage growth. Cost effective energy measurement tools at the circuit breaker level enable more use of that technology. The very large PV installations indicate what can be done in a renewable energy future (Net Positive 2050).

[1] Intersolar ESS, https://www.intersolar.us/en/home.html

[2] https://www.dnvgl.com/energy/brochures/download/gridstor.html

[3] http://energycurb.com/

[4] http://www.egauge.net/

[5] Huawei 2 GW installation, http://www.huawei.com/en/all-products/Solar/References/Yanchi