Innovations in battery storage key to a solar-powered future


Europe’s residential battery energy storage systems (BESS) market has seen notable growth, with 725 MWh of additional capacity installed over 2019, demonstrating a 57% increase year-on-year. Yet, there’s still immense untapped potential: Only 7% of European residential PV infrastructure is actually coupled with battery storage. While the pandemic has slowed down the pace of new installations, 2021 is bound to see a positive recovery. Looking at cumulative capacities, up to 7.2 GWh of residential batteries could be installed by 2024. 

While Switzerland, Italy, and Austria are making strides, it’s Germany again that is leading the way. Currently, the country holds a 66% market share for residential BESS across the continent – in 2019, Germany installed 63,000 residential battery storage systems. Through partnerships between rooftop solar panels and storage suppliers, consumers can access solar and storage solutions without any hassle. Early adopters aren’t driven only by economics: Their desire to de-risk their future bill, help Europe’s energy transition, or simply become more energy self-sufficient is just as relevant.

In other, more rigid markets, policy progress and commitment are needed to allow for greater integration of solar and storage. For example, unlike in the neighboring Czech Republic, in Slovakia, consumers aren’t allowed to sell excess solar-generated energy back to the grid. Changing this could be a major incentive for individual consumers to embrace novel solutions. 

Solar and its role within smart grids

According to the European Union, innovative storage solutions will be critical to ensuring effective integration of renewables into the grid. And with the institution’s prioritization of smart grid solutions along the way, it’s interesting to observe how well these technologies complement each other. Simply put, solar and storage is bound to play a fundamental role in smart grid networks.

Smart grids enable a constant two-way stream of both data and electricity between the utilities and their customers. With detailed insights and optimization possibilities, solar and storage can be driven to its full potential. Both at the household or company level, such an integrated system can take advantage of every watt that solar panels produce, storing as much energy as possible while sharing any surplus across the smart grid for optimal usage.

The smart system can also tap into a unit’s energy behavior data points and weather forecast to make predictions. Based on those predictions, it can program the running time of devices across households and identify the ideal storage usage so that the battery can be fully charged throughout the day again. Added to that, it can work to manage the capacity of the battery to ensure longevity. 

Innovation underway

It’s obvious that solar and storage will function best when integrated within an interconnected energy ecosystem, where every consumer, source, and storage unit become active participants. This should happen under the umbrella of autonomous software solutions that manage the capacity of the battery and monitor the performance of solar panels over time. This information can be confronted with the status of the transmission system, electricity stock prices, and communication with energy suppliers to identify whether there is demand or surplus in the power grid and set the most efficient plan for action. 

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The benefits these setups bring could help defeat the notorious perception about the low financial attractiveness of solar and storage, particularly in the commercial and industrial sector that still lacks a defined value proposition.

Such innovations can also be fully autonomic meaning that software itself can decide what part of locally produced solar energy is stored and what part of it is used for direct consumption. Taking into account that the battery is often charged with surplus energy from the grid that could otherwise be wasted or provides energy instead of the fossil ancillary service provider at the time when there is a lack of energy in the grid, the decrease in CO2 emissions is significant. 

The setup also works to stabilize the transmission system, making the whole power grid more reliable. In addition to enjoying lower energy costs, the user is also protected from power outages thanks to the battery backup functionality.

The energy market is ripe for disruption – even oil companies are moving to the renewable and green technology field. No matter what technology, early adopters usually get the highest profits. This will also be the case of innovative solar and storage solutions that work to provide optimal capacity and stabilization services. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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