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Storage companies vie for attention at Solar Power International show

Solar Power International takes place this week in Anaheim, California. Image: SPI Convention facebook page.
Start-ups and established players in energy storage alike will compete for attention at this week’s Solar Power International, which opens today in Anaheim, California.

As with other international solar events including Intersolar Europe in June and Solar Energy UK in October, the show will put more emphasis on energy storage and batteries than before, running a dedicated energy storage pavilion. While there has been a growing understanding that solar and storage are likely to be two separate industries in future, or rather, two separate parts of the distributed energy networks of the future, the use of storage in combination with solar is still very much likely to be a focal point for the show.

While a wide range of companies will be presenting, it is interesting to note that exhibitors are likely to be showcasing storage at all scales from residential to utility-scale. They will not only include storage hardware providers and project developers but also companies involved with energy and network management including software and system services, such as modelling.

Schneider Electric, the German company well known in solar for its power conversion technologies, is launching a remote monitoring and asset management platform which can assess the performance of PV systems, including battery-based or grid-tied plants. The Conext Insight monitoring software and web portal utilises offers quick remote troubleshooting and can send out notifications to customers informing them of maintenance schedules, in addition to other features such as allowing the system’s installer, owner and operator to log the plant’s historical performance. Schneider will also be presenting its existing energy storage range, including ES Skid, a storage system available in 540kW to 2.7MW sizes and ES Box, a power conversion system for energy storage that the company claims is “plug and play” taking power from AC to DC and vice versa.

Dynapower, another power conversion company, which recently expanded its West Coast operations and which will supply 250kW inverters for use in Tesla’s Powerpack commercial scale battery storage systems, will also be exhibiting at the show, as will Fronius and SolarEdge, the two companies so far to be announced as inverter partners for Tesla’s residential offering, Powerwall. Another Dynapower partner, the engineering firm Black & Veatch, will also be exhibiting its range of technical services.

Also of interest to energy storage guests will be the presence of companies such as Geli Energy and Greensmith, both software and data management specialists for storage. Greensmith, which delivers control systems for storage as well as complete turnkey storage systems, is expected to launch a new feature for its GEMS system management software platform for aggregating systems together. PV Tech Storage has written frequently about the potential some see for aggregated storage units, creating ‘virtual power plants’ that resemble a large generation facility to the grid operator while remaining behind-the-meter, for example.

“Energy storage systems owners and operators will be able to aggregate multiple energy storage systems into a single resource, allowing them to use these systems to connect to and participate in resource adequacy, frequency response and other wholesale energy markets,” with the new functionality, a Greensmith spokesman said.

Geli meanwhile provides software and business solutions for energy storage and micro-grids. A few days ago the company announced a partnership with Japanese residential solar inverter maker Tabuchi Electric, which also makes solar-plus-storage systems. Tabuchi’s systems will run on Geli’s Energy Operating System hardware, allowing homeowners to co-ordinate the running of thermostats, pool pumps and other smart home connectible devices with their solar and storage. Tabuchi will also be exhibiting at the SPI show.

The executive director of the US Energy Storage Association, Matt Roberts, told PV Tech Storage after the close of his organisation’s annual conference in summer that Silicon Valley players and software companies with innovative ideas in how to manage data and create networks for energy storage, including Greensmith and Geli, are likely to play a big part in the industry going forward. Perhaps keenly aware of this Silicon Valley leverage in marketing terms, Geli’s website and publicity materials refer often to the ‘Geli Internet of Energy Platform,’ reflecting the attention given by mainstream media to the ‘Internet of Things’ concept.

In terms of battery vendors, Aquion Energy, developer of an aqueous electrolyte flow battery, has been much talked-about by industry insiders curious to see what it can do. The company is now on its second generation of AHI (aqueous hybrid ion) batteries, which use saltwater electrolytes with a manganese oxide spinel cathode and carbon composite anode. The company claims it is better value than lithium-ion or lead acid equivalents, can be used at a 100% discharge depth for durations of between four and 20 hours, and was designed with integrating solar in mind. For example, a recent 1MWh project at a private estate in Hawaii saw Aquion install batteries that in theory can charge for eight hours a day from an off-grid solar PV plant, discharging over 16 hours of evening and night-time. The company also claims the materials used in its batteries are non-toxic and sustainably built.

Solar Power International is organised by US trade associations Solar Energy Industries’ Association (SEIA) and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and runs until Thursday, 17 September.   

Aquion Energy's AHI battery. Image: Aquion.

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