|By Rhone Resch, President and CEO, Solar Energy Industries Association|
As the world’s electricity demand grows, it’s imperative that we cut emissions. Solar electricity is meeting an increasingly significant percentage of global energy demand. Smart, consistent long-term solar policies, such as the investment tax credit and renewable portfolio standards, and industry innovations in technology and financing, have made solar a bright spot in our economy.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) forecasts that 5.2 GW of new solar electric capacity will come online in 2013. As solar deployment increases, SEIA is focused on accelerating renewable energy generation without sacrificing reliability. Energy professionals, business leaders, policymakers –and the public– view storage as a crucial technology that complements solar. Advancing energy storage is vital to our mission of ensuring that renewables become an increasingly mainstream source of our world’s power supply.
Universities, scientists and investors, among others, are engaged in advancing storage technologies that will revolutionize our world. An IMS Research report forecasts that the market for storing power generated by solar will soar – from approximately $200 million in 2012 to $19 billion by 2017.
Catastrophic events such as Superstorm Sandy have shown that lives can be lost, homes and businesses damaged and destroyed, and entire regions crippled by natural disasters. Pairing emissions-free solar with energy storage / back-up generation will make our grid more resilient.
Several battery chemistries are being pursued: advanced lead acid, lithium-ion, flow, etc. They’ve targeted applications and unique benefits.
Several solar companies are already integrating energy storage in their deployments – in utility-scale, distributed generation and residential projects. Molten-salt batteries used in several utility-scale concentrated solar power plants help provide uninterrupted electricity.
Microgrids incorporating solar arrays are in operation at mission-critical government and community facilities. The U.S. military is developing microgrids on bases, such as at Fort Detrick, to provide critical power in the event of outages. Backup storage is being paired with solar installed at homes and businesses; additional pilot projects are underway.
Several companies are developing sophisticated hybrid solar / storage systems, including portable solar generators that provide power when disaster strikes. These include fully-integrated battery back-up systems enabling customers to send excess energy back to the grid for credit, while battery storage provides backup electricity – operating independently of the grid during power outages.
SEIA and the Electricity Storage Association (ESA) have formed a new partnership to accelerate grid storage systems and renewables. We’re focused on modernizing the grid, making it more balanced, efficient, clean, reliable and cost-effective. At present, we’re working collaboratively with ESA on the Energy Storage Investment Tax Credit gaining support in Congress.
There are 8,500 MW of cumulative solar electric capacity installed in the U.S. – enough to power more than 1.3 million homes.
Energy storage capacity is growing at a similarly quick pace; it already accounts for 24,000 MWh (mostly pumped hydroelectricity) in nearly every state. By 2017, grid-scale energy storage will reach an 185.4 GWh, a $113.5 billion revenue opportunity for an industry that currently generates sales of $50 billion a year.
The grid functions much the same way as it did a century ago. It’s ripe for innovation. Solar and energy storage technologies offer vast improvements. Many initiatives are underway to improve the reliability, capacity, safety and cost of batteries/energy storage technologies, making them more useful in a wide variety of applications. Energy storage, paired with renewables, will make the grid more robust, reliable, resilient and secure – delivering tremendous environmental and health benefits. The increased deployment of these technologies, in tandem, will further solidify solar and other renewable technologies as an increasingly mainstream resource in our nation’s energy portfolio, and help ensure an uninterrupted supply of electricity.
Once we’ve perfected the pairing of solar with energy storage – from residential through utility-scale deployment – the possibilities are truly limitless.
Rhone Resch is the president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Resch has more than 20 years of experience in the public and private sector working on clean energy development and climate change issues. In addition to serving as the vice president for the Natural Gas Supply Association, Rhone also served as program manager at the EPA’s Climate Protection Division during the Clinton administration. Rhone holds an M.P.A. in management from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, a Master of Environmental Engineering from SUNY Syracuse, and a B.A. from the University of Michigan.
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