Energy storage has featured strongly on the opening day of the world’s biggest meeting of the solar energy industry, the annual Intersolar Europe Exhibition and conference, which kicked off in Germany on Wednesday.
Reports from Munich over night said the EES Europe, the energy storage exhibition which runs concurrently with the Intersolar Show, had grown five-fold on last year, with an entire hall at the Munich Convention Center displaying advancements in battery systems, applications and innovations.
“The EES or storage hall, like at Solar2015 in Melbourne, is where all of the action is this year,” said Rob Campbell, in an email from the conference to RenewEconomy, adding that the 2015 focus had also switched, from large-scale, grid-based battery systems to technology targeting the domestic market.
“Last year SunSink and one German inverter manufacture Kostal where the only offerers of domestic storage. This year it seems companies large and small have cobbled together domestic storage in one form or another, including Tesla.
“Most have gone and bought a 19-inch rack and put some stickers on it, but many bigger players have slick devices albeit mostly rated for indoor use only.
The Tesla Powerwall, Campbell added, “has transformed into a RED Apple mouse shape and looks more like a roof rack luggage bin than a storage device, and it still remains an empty box at this fair, though the specs are now out (see images below).
“Looking at the range coming out of Europe (remember that Germany has incentivised storage to the tune of €500 per kilowatt hour), Tesla will have very stiff competition in this market,” he said.
“Pricing is still very hard to nail down, with nobody offering price lists and some not even specifications. Lead acid is still popular at the domestic level but Li ion is also prevelant and most companies still lanquishing at 48v DC.
According to Mike Swanston, a former executive with Queensland distribution business Energex, who is also at the conference, the focus among the large-scale energy storage folk is on energy security.
“The energy storage industry has picked up the pace on the use of megawatt-level grid storage to manage the frequency and grid stability risks brought on by the high penetration of solar and wind generation, both of which are subject to significant sub-minute variations in capacity,” Swanston wrote from the conference.
Beyond energy storage, however, there were also more than a dozen electric cars on display – at least 16 of them, according to Campbell – alongside EV infrastructure like charging stations.
And, of course, there was solar – the main theme on day one being falling government targets and support, according to Swanston.
“Many discussions highlighted the continued reliance on government policy and, in so many ways, financial support to maintain momentum in the development of both ‘OFI’ (Open Field Installations) and rooftop solar,” he said.
“No country, whether it be in the more mature renewable energy markets of Germany and California, or in the energy-hungry development in Mexico, Chile or Turkey, appears to have cleared the bar and reached critical mass and parity-price to maintain momentum in renewable development without direct government intervention.”
The net metering debate also remains very active in the industry, he said.
Curiously, Swanston added, “despite our amazing result of 20+% penetration in rooftop solar, Australia is completely off the world PV radar.
“A number of maps presented today stopped at the Equator. Those that didn’t were there to highlight emerging development of renewable energy in Africa or South America.
Swanston said much was even being made of UK solar growth, even though 1 million roofs (5GW) of rooftop PV in the UK across a population of 64 million was not a lot to crow about when compared to 9GWp in Australia, he said.
“Tomorrow sees the opening of the trade show. Over six exhibition halls, this appears to be the main game of Intersolar. Judging by last night’s queues at the check-in counters at three hotels that surround the conference centre, it will be a big, big day.”
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