SEPAPower Blog : Energy Storage and Solar: "Any More Questions?"

Energy Storage and Solar: "Any More Questions?"

Jurgen Krehnke Reliable, cost-effective energy storage is repeatedly cited by energy industry observers as the final barrier to realizing the full potential of solar. “Everyone agrees that solar by itself is a fine energy source, but solar does pose operational issues for electric utilities as penetration increases”, says Jurgen Krehnke, President of Technologies at Eden Energy Group, and a member of the SEPA Board of Directors. “These issues are all addressed by storage. Add storage to solar, and one can say, ‘Any more questions?’ ”

In September, Krehnke attended the Energy Storage North America (ESNA) conference in San Jose, CA on behalf of SEPA to take a read on how energy storage is progressing along the path to full commercial viability. After the conference, SEPA sat down with him to discuss his observations.

SEPA: Jurgen, what was your impression of the ESNA conference?
Jurgen Krehnke: This conference was well conceived and well organized and the attendees were excited and enthusiastic.
At least 10 people at the conference came up to me with the same comment - in almost the same words. They said, “This reminds me of solar conferences I attended x number of years ago”, where x ranged between 8 and 15 years. Everyone hopes that the storage cost curve will bend down as rapidly as solar prices have.

SEPA: Did you get a sense of the state of commercial readiness for storage?
JK: I approached exhibitors at the conference with the mindset of a project developer wanting to incorporate storage into microgrid projects. “Your solution sounds terrific,” I said to early stage companies with great-sounding names. “When can I have it?” Generally I was told to look for a prototype “sometime next year.”

I’m a project-oriented guy. If I see the potential, I want to use it. If you make the price right, I will buy it. And I am not talking about “cheap” but rather “fair value”. But when I find out that prototypes aren’t quite ready yet, it realistically means that scaled-up production is at least 2-3 years away.

SEPA: What battery technologies looked promising?
JK: It’s hard even for me to keep track of the “alphabet soup” of battery chemistry. The early stage companies all claim to have a technology that is environmentally safe, that doesn’t heat up and has target roundtrip efficiencies of 80 percent and above.

At Eden Energy, we will follow 8 or 10 of these vendors closely. One or more of them will become great companies, but I just can’t predict which ones right now.

SEPA: So where does that leave us at the moment?
JK: I think the consensus among the attendees was that lead-acid would remain the battery workhorse for off-grid and residential backup but it has drawbacks for large-scale utility use. Lithium ion needs to prove that it can scale beyond cars and residential uses. Flow batteries were discussed for their promise for scaling up to the multiple megawatt level.

SEPA: This conference took place at a propitious time: California regulators had just issued a proposed decision [editor: since turned into a ruling] directing the state’s three utilities to meet aggressive targets totaling 1.3 gigawatts of storage by 2020. Was there much buzz about that?
JK: Absolutely. With California leading the way, there is the potential to achieve economies of scale similar to those that propelled solar into the spotlight. If we have some technical breakthroughs combined with scale-up, we could see storage take hold faster than anyone thinks, including me.

SEPA: Any final thoughts?
JK: Not surprisingly, cost is on everyone’s mind. On the other hand, everyone also acknowledges that many of the issues with solar - ramping, intermittency and variability - simply go away with viable storage. That leaves us with the difficult question of determining storage’s “fair value” when it comes to peak reduction, ramp support, frequency regulation or demand charges.

I don’t sense much resistance to storage. Utilities seem to be much more embracing of storage than the reaction we sometimes see towards solar. There is a strong determination from all sectors to deploy storage as cost and value meet.


In your speech in San Jose, you apparently said the following: "These issues are all addressed by storage. Add storage to solar, and one can say, 'Any more questions?'" As a practitioner, I can tell you that my clients have many, many questions when we mention storage, like these: How much extra does that cost? How often do I have to replace the [batteries, flywheels, etc.]? How much does periodic maintenance cost? What training do I need to operate the complex controls involved? How do I dispose of the batteries when their life is exhausted? Are there toxic chemicals involved? Is there an additional fire risk associated with storage? These and other questions are the things that practitioners are wrestling with currently. So don’t tell me that there are no questions after we suggest storage. I agree with you that storage is a good long term solution for adding stability to solar and other renewables, but whitewashing the technical challenges is not the right way to push this technology forward. Respectfully, Charles (Chuck) Ladd, PE
November 7, 2013 04:33
Jurgen, I am trying to introduce a new Solar Array Clear used to maximize return on investment with reduced cleaning intervals. Glass Gleam Solar™ Concentrated Solar Panel Cleaner Features: · Will Not Harm Glass Panels, Plastics, Or Metals · Balanced pH and Kind To Hands · Super-Concentrated · Superb Results For All Panels And Solar Cells · Restores Photovoltaic Efficiency To 100% · Only 1/4 Fl. Oz. Per Gallon Of Water Needed · Rinse, Power Jet Or Squeegee · Earth Friendly Product · No Phosphates, Ammonia Or Hazardous Ingredients · Stays Wet Longer · Softens Water To Reduce Dirt Re-Deposition · Panels Stay Cleaner Longer Than Other Soaps · One Gallon Makes Over 500 Gallons Of Solar Solution Do you know of any utilities that maintain there own arrays? Thanks, Keith
November 7, 2013 06:54
Any discussion of power to gas solutions for storage? Convert power to hydrogen via electrolysis and then use the hydrogen directly or inject into natural gas pipelines (up to 10% or so) as is being experimented in Germany, or combine hydrogen with gasification and/or digestion processes to upgrade carbon content to CH4.
November 8, 2013 10:43
Where terrain allows, what about pump-storage for solar? Solar output drives pumps to pump water uphill to storage, then the water flow back down drives hydro units. In small applications, 1-3 MW, a dedicated pump and separate generator can be used to provide power as you generate as well as smoothing to facilitate utility-scale applications.
November 8, 2013 06:54
Please, how did you come by those black plates at first? Are they just flat paentid iron with white stripes or what? Or are they already made solar cells that one has to buy and assemble them? Thanks for your kind answers. Be blessed
February 22, 2015 10:25
October 15, 2015 05:11

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