Germany could become storage technology hotspot

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During the first at the International Summit for the Storage Renewable Energy, Germany’s Environment Minister, Norbert Röttgen spoke about market incentives for storage systems. These, he said, are important for the development of market applications. He added that the energy transmission represents a major transformation and challenge both in Germany, and worldwide.

He went on to tell the audience of over 300 experts, from 28 countries, that the immediate task is to develop renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, and integrate them into the market. Their development must then be linked to the expansion step of the networks, he said.

Paradigm shift

Meanwhile, during his presentation, Eicke Weber, spokesman for the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance and head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solare Energy Systems (ISE), asserted, "Energy storage is part of a paradigm shift in renewable energy adoption and usage. Storage at its basic is about being able to use harvested renewable energy produced at a very low cost exactly when we need it."

He said that there is a wide range of storage technologies and business use cases emerging, which will create an important role for energy storage systems in Germany’s future.

According to Weber, the country is particularly well-positioned to become a hotspot for energy storage technologies, due to plans to phase out nuclear power and its clear goals on continuing the expansion of the deployment of fluctuating renewable energy.

The country has reached its capacity for pumped hydro storage, so newer storage technologies have to be exploited, added Achim Zerres of the Federal Network Agency, who also spoke on Day one of the two day conference.

Hydrogen storage

Despite this, hydrogen storage is said to be one important technology being explored. "It has the highest energy density and therefore a huge capacity, but it has a low efficiency," continued Weber. For example, at a point in the not too distant future, he believes homeowners will install large-scale insulated hot water tanks for storing excess solar energy, or new kinds of appliances that can store energy for weeks and months at a time. "It means consumers can use electricity that was produced at almost zero cost," he added.

The "zero cost" scenario occurs because on excessively sunny days in Southern Germany, it is not uncommon for more solar energy to be produced than consumed. It has even led to a negative price for electricity at times.

"There are many ways to handle such peaks, but sometimes the photovoltaic power producers in Germany are told to stop [feeding power into the grid]. This is crazy," Weber told pv magazine on the sidelines of the conference. It is like that, he said, due to the fact that it is more difficult to slow down or stop the production of atomic and coal energy plants. He added that the Fraunhofer Institute has several projects underway to address the issue.

Look out for more news from the Energy Storage conference tomorrow, and check out pv magazine’s new, dedicated "Storage & grid integration" page, which contains a collection of relevant articles on the topic.

Edited by Becky Stuart.