Energy Storage: Calling All Systems Integrators

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Energy storage technologies report author Anissa Dehamna

With 29 different energy storage technologies now deployed worldwide, there is a need for system integrators to package these technologies in ways that are attractive to potential customers—including homeowners, utilities and developers.

That’s the word from a new report from Navigant Research, “Energy Storage Tracker 3W13,” “Energy Storage Tracker 3Q13”.

The technologies include capacitor battery technology, lithium titanate oxide, nickel-iron, and solar thermal. Older technologies, such as power-to-gas, are also coming online, said the report.

Thirty-eight new advanced energy storage projects were announced, deployed, or begun in the first 6 months of 2013. In total, there are now 633 energy storage projects operating or under development worldwide, the study says.

All this activity has created a need for systems integrators, says Anissa Dehamna, senior research analyst with Navigant Research.

“In the storage industry, a few things need to be worked out before things can be scaled up. The technology is pretty mature,” she says. “The problems are in the supply chain. After you have the technology, you need to package and sell to consumers. We don’t have enough system integrators to package and sell them.” What’s more, there’s no model for financing or packaging and selling the products, she says.

However, it may make sense to borrow marketing techniques from other industries. “I think the industry can borrow heavily from other industries that are good at packaging power electronics and controls. You could borrow from Bosch and Siemens,” says Dehamna.

The systems integrators would target homeowners who want storage with their solar systems; utility, wind or solar developers who need to integrate storage with their systems, and remote communities or a community that’s off the grid, she says.

But here’s the good news: Many of the battery manufacturers in Asia are hard at work focusing on how to sell to their home markets. They will learn from these experiences and apply what they’ve learned to the US market, she says.

While the manufacturers in Asia focus on systems integration, those in Europe are focusing on innovative ways to use battery storage, the Navigant study found. This came as a surprise.

“We don’t think of Europe as a hot bed of energy storage technology. We see them focused on integrating renewables. But hydrogen is being proven in Europe, which is exciting.” In the European applications, unusable electricity—produced by wind turbines blowing at night, for example—is transformed into hydrogen, which is converted into natural gas or methane, she says. It’s then put into the natural gas grid.

“This was a surprise because they are seen as experts in integrating renewable energy, but there aren’t a lot of storage technology companies in Europe,” she says.

With the development of technologies both innovative and traditional, the battery storage industry is poised for growth. While Asia Pacific is the world leader in deployed capacity—with 47 percent of global capacity—North American leads in numbers of installed projects—with 115 so far, according to the report. In fact, the North American market is the most technologically diverse, driven in part by funding innovation, says the report.

“This is a critical time for the advanced energy storage industry – in order for the industry to mature and scale up, more systems integrators are needed,” says the executive summary.

Solving this challenge will reap numerous benefits, including bringing more green energy online—and creating more green jobs. Let’s hope that copy-catting other industries will help nudge the industry in the right direction.

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  1. As the global energy storage project pipeline has grown, the number of deployed projects has increased as well.


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