The future reliability of solar energy just got another boost from the U.S. Energy Department. A total of $18 million has been pledged to help develop solar energy storage technologies for residential, commercial, and institutional use.
Reliability is the key word here because of solar’s inherently intermittent nature. Accessing solar power after sunset is the key to future growth for the solar industry.
This investment is a part of the larger SunShot Initiative which aims to make solar power affordable across the country by the end of the decade.
Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, knows how important this investment is – “Energy storage, solar PV, and smart grid technologies experienced incredible growth in 2015, and we expect they will play an increasingly important role in reaching the nation’s climate and clean energy goals in the coming years.”
The $18 million investment will specifically go towards 6 projects. Here’s a list and basic description of the projects involved.
- Commonwealth Edison Company – Based out of the Chicago area, this company will receive $4 million to research the combination of solar and battery storage along with smart inverters to identify variability issues.
- The Hawaiian Electric Company – Will receive about $2.4 million to further investigate the effects of the recent widespread adoption of solar power and their benefits to the utility.
- Carnegie Mellon University – Is awarded about $1 million to develop a system that incorporates smart inverters, automation controllers, smart thermostats, and energy storage solutions.
- Austin Energy – Gets $4.3 million to create and test an energy management platform that will enable a quicker growth of solar PV.
- Fraunhofer USA – Based in Boston, will receive about $3.5 million to develop a load management system capable of incorporating solar and storage technologies.
- The Electric Power Research Institue – Located in Knoxville, TN, the institute will get a little more than $3 million to work with a collection of utilities to develop end-to-end integration of solar plus storage and load management.
The specific part of the SunShot Initiative that is connected to this 6 project, $18 million program is called SHINES. SHINES stands for Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV. The overall goal of this program is to help make possible solar and energy storage technologies that are “scalable, secure, and cost-effective.”
These are vital programs for the continued use of increasing amounts of solar power in the near and long term. The nation’s grid must be able to effectively handle much larger amounts of distributed solar energy in the coming years. Energy storage will therefore become significantly more important to handle the extra available solar energy and to provide on demand energy long after the sun has set.
The government’s proactive response to a quickly growing solar industry will help ensure grid stability while helping to increase clean energy adoption across the country.
What this is all leading to is a much more democratized energy landscape. Utilities will start to play a smaller role as a provider of energy. Distributed energy sources like solar and small wind turbines will enable homeowners and businesses to contribute to the grid while benefiting financially.
Cost effective energy storage solutions will play a large role in the coming years.