Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Future of the Grid Is Here, in These Two Products

Rooftop solar plus storage installations can be combined to help manage the grid. (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
It’s no secret that solar power is having a moment.  The renewable energy source has had year after year of record-breaking growth — and now employs more people than the coal industry.

But the electrical grid can’t run off solar alone.  In addition to the fact that it’s only expected to be 3 percent of generation by 2050, there is also the very basic problem that the sun only shines during the day, and we use electricity all the time.

Enter electrical storage
The U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday announced a round of new grants for research and development on solar plus storage — what the head of the solar industry trade association calls “the missing piece of the puzzle.”

Storage will help utilities manage the grid, lower costs, help ensure reliability during emergencies, and make the U.S. energy sector more self-sufficient, Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) told reporters on a call Monday.  But it’s not just altruism spurring the industry’s backing of storage.  As Resch put it, “Innovation in storage will help drive solar.”

Solar needs storage, and storage is most useful for intermittent sources.  This symbiosis is perhaps that’s why the new Energy Department initiative, the SHINES program (Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV), seeks to combine the two.

Among Monday’s awardees is the forward-looking Austin Energy Company.  The Texas utility has a mandate to get 55 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2025 — an earlier mandate of 30 percent by 2020 got updated when the company realized it was going to hit the goal well before the deadline.  Currently, the company is projecting to get 51 percent of its power from renewables by the end of the year.

Read more at The Future of the Grid Is Here, in These Two Products

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