The way we produce and consume energy is changing rapidly. With the price of solar panels declining by 99% over the last few decades, more and more customers are turning to distributed renewable energy (DRE) systems to meet their needs. Accordingly, the market for DRE storage systems is growing fast, with Navigant Consulting predicting a 10-fold increase over the next three years. As the market for solar and storage expands, the capabilities of inverters have evolved as well. Optimizing storage technologies with inverters during system design will be critical for companies looking to compete in what may soon become a $2.8 billion market.
Types of storage
While Tesla’s “Powerwall” home energy solution recently made headlines, various types of storage capabilities have been around for a long time. The two most basic methods of storage are mechanical and chemical. Mechanical storage systems work by moving physical mass to increase potential energy. The most commonly used method, pumped-storage hydroelectricity, operates by pumping water from a lower holding tank to a higher one when energy demand is low, later releasing the water back to the lower tank to create energy. The majority of solar-powered storage systems, however, rely on electrochemical storage in the form of batteries. The oldest and most commonly used battery solution in DRE is lead-acid, which is also the least expensive at a cost of $150 to $200 per kWh. Lead-acid batteries hold charges for long durations and are more commercially available, hence their ubiquity in the marketplace. However, lead-acid batteries tend to be heavier and take up more space, giving them a comparatively low energy density.
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photo credit: Martin Abegglen at flickr.com