Will Solar Really Usher Off-grid Era?

With the recent rash of positive prognoses for the solar-storage segment, one would be forgiven for thinking that we are truly on the cusp of a new and greener energy reality where PV cells are ubiquitous and energy storage gains mainstream status in our vocabulary. Is it really not previous to pop the champagne and celebrate the arrival of solar energy as a panacea for our energy ills? It is true that solar is far and away the most widely harnessed renewable source at the individual level, but its main weakness – complete dependency on the weather – remains a serious issue. With that in mind, energy storage technology seen a steady stream of R&D cash heading its way.

The market for storage at the individual scale, though, is lagging. Batteries may be the most popular form of energy storage technology for residential purposes, but it is inadequate in powering anything other than lights and appliances without having to be recharged every few days. A region with unreliable weather will be unfit for the deployment of battery storage solutions.

Some things in the garden are rosy, however. California pledged $2 billion in 2007 to support the solar industry, which includes the development renewable storage technology. At the federal level, the Storage Technology for Renewable & Green Energy (STORAGE) Act will hopefully allow energy storage to gain some traction. Germany’s efforts in the solar offensive is not to be missed, with the introduction of its subsidy for solar energy storage systems.

Perhaps the attendance at this year’s Intersolar North America is the best barometer of the solar-storage segment. 200 energy storage vendors were peddling their solutions – a jump of more than 15 fold from 3 years ago. Intersolar CEO Markus Elsaesser is buoyant. “We will go from this year’s 30 gigawatts of new installations to over 100 gigawatts of new installations per year”, he said. Which can only be a boon for solar storage prospects.

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