Our trip to Intersolar 2014 confirmed that energy storage is the future of the power industry. The solar market has had massive growth over the last 10 years and is now a heavy contender with traditional power generation methods. This is especially true when talking about peak demand power, as solar reaches peak production during Texas peak demand.
What is next for Energy Storage?
I often get asked this question when consulting potential grid tie solar customers for our parent company HEsolar LLC.
The truth is no one really knows for sure. A few things are certain though:
- Lead Acid is still the most commercially available and cost effective energy storage technology for typical off grid power installations. Lead Acid also benefits from consumer ease of disposal. Lead Acid batteries are anywhere from 97 to 99% recyclable, making it easy for consumers to replace exhausted battery banks.
- Lithium Ion is becoming my widely available but for certain uses. From what we could tell at Intersolar, Lithium Ion is doing great in industrial settings where the bank voltage can be well above your typical 48Volt battery bank. Lithium Ion is harder to recycle and less rugged than its vintage competitor, lead acid.
- New creative technologies are being developed but have a while before they become readily available. Not only do these technologies have to prove effective, they also have to gain traction in a market dominated by Lead-Acid and Lithium-Ion.
- Aquion is one of these new creative technologies that may become a legitimate commercial option in the near future. Their technology can be discharged more than Lead-Acid and is made of nontoxic materials making it a safe alternative to current technologies. Learn more at http://www.aquionenergy.com/energy-storage-technology
Solar Panel Highlights
Solar Cells are an old and incredibly reliable technology. Aside from gradual efficiency increases there isn’t too much innovation happening in the solar panel arena. That being said, integration and inverter technology gets more impressive every year. The following are solar panel highlights taken away from Intersolar 2014:
- Glass to Glass modules: The cells may not be changing but the ways they are structured are. Traditional solar panels have an aluminum frame creating a rigid frame that can be mounted and remain solid for 30+ year life of the cells. Rigid glass sheets can sandwich the cells and offer superior fire protection for the underside of the solar panel.
- Thin Film Solar: When I refer to solar panels, I am typically talking about a certain solar cell technology (crystalline) that rules the market. Thin-Film has been developed for years and does have a small portion of the market. Thin Film has always shown promise in cheaper production but has a hard time reaching the efficiency levels of crystalline solar panels. A few vendors were showing off thin film modules that have now reached lower performing crystalline efficiency levels for an affordable cost. These may prove to be a great option for customers with plenty of available solar real estate.
- Dual MppT Inverters: Modern inverters typically include Maximum Power Point Tracking, which manipulates the amount of current the inverter pulls to maximize the solar output. New inverter have started including dual MppT inputs giving solar designers, like myself, additional design options for complex solar arrays.
-Eric Hoffman, LEED AP
Master Electrician – 214535
NABCEP Solar PV Professional