The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced another funding opportunity to support “low-cost, flexible and reliable solutions” for the integration of higher penetrations of solar PV on the grid by using energy storage. This move forms part of its SunShot program which is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade.
“Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV” (SHINES) is to provide up to US$15 million in funding for projects which use storage to meet both consumer and grid needs. This will include projects that utilize smart inverters, and are capable of working with smart buildings, smart appliances, and utility communications and control systems.
SHINE is actively looking for projects enabling the development and demonstration of integrated, scalable, and cost-effective technologies for solar that incorporate energy storage and work seamlessly to meet both consumer needs and the needs of the electricity grid.
Focus on distributed on-site solar
There appears to be more focus on distributed, ‘on-site’ solar, rather than centralised generation from utility-scale plants. The idea is that inexpensive and flexible distributed generation from PV could be deployed more widely and integrated more readily into the grid using suitable storage projects.
The DoE said that successful projects under SHINE will need to be able to use smart technology including metering and inverters. In addition, solutions should also feature “easily interoperable hardware, software and firmware technologies”.
The US has yet to boast high solar power levels experienced by the likes of Italy, Germany or Spain. All three of these nations met 5-7% of electricity demand with solar in 2013 and none have yet to deploy widespread energy storage solutions.
California has come close, with a utility-scale PV and solar CSP alone meeting 2.4% of demand over the course of 2013. Hawaii has even higher penetrations of solar, and due to isolated island grids the challenges of integrating PV are greater.
The US regions of California, Hawaii and New York lead the country on energy storage at present, both in terms of deployment and policy, making them by definition among the global leaders. [Engerati – California’s Energy Storage Mandate – Will Others Follow?] and [Engerati – Hawaii Encourages Energy Storage Development and Microgrid Technologies] and [Engerati – New York A Hotbed For Storage R&D]
In addition to already existing schemes to support storage in other countries including Germany, recent weeks have seen funding and storage policy announcements from governments including India and Singapore. [Engerati – Germany Energy Market – Business Opportunities In Germany and [Engerati – India Poised To Join Energy Storage Revolution].
Preparing for the solar future
DOE Solar Technologies Office Director Minh Le says that his agency is preparing for the future. “The goal of SunShot’s systems integration team is to anticipate and proactively address any potential challenges that could occur if or when hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy are interconnected to the grid.”
“As the U.S. solar sector progresses towards such a high penetration scenario, it becomes increasingly possible that impacts on the electrical grid will occur due to the constrained availability and variability of solar energy,” added Le, who cited utility HECO's restrictions on new PV in Hawaii. "It’s crucial that we prevent such closures from occurring, as they’re a threat to achieving the nation’s renewable energy deployment goals in the fight against climate change."
Individual SHINES awards will range from US$500,000 - US$5 million. The first deadline for concept papers will be on December 15th at 5 PM, and DOE expects to notify companies selected to receive funding on June 22nd, 2015.