By Sara Ver-Bruggen –
As the incentives that have helped make PV affordable in the first place taper off and electricity prices continue to rise over time, storage is becoming increasingly important for the PV industry’s long term growth, with closer collaboration between PV companies and those supplying energy storage and management systems.
For off-grid electricity supply PV panels and battery generators are essential components, but these are not technologies that have been designed with each other in mind. Conventional lead-acid batteries, widely commercialised for automobile starting, lighting and ignition, are cheap but over the 20 year lifetime of a typical solar panel, they will need to be replaced several times and may also incur additional maintenance. Efforts to commercialize storage technologies – battery based – for stationary PV applications are gathering pace, as the electric vehicle (EV) market has taken longer than initially anticipated to get going. Electricity storage and management is a complex field and companies with understanding and knowledge of it are in a strong position to supply the emerging trend for PV self-consumption. Storage and management systems enable owners to use up to 60% of the energy their panel produces, significantly more than is possible with just a panel and no storage. According to Photon Consulting by 2016 as much as 15% of new PV installations worldwide will include storage. PV module makers, inverter companies and PV component and system suppliers are converging on the opportunities that will be afforded by the grid-connected stationary storage market in the coming years.
One of these is Tenesol, which was set up over 15 years ago by the oil and gas company Total to manufacture solar panels before expanding into supplying and installing PV systems, specializing in off-grid. Tenesol’s off-grid PV business spans energy, pumping and telecoms industries, private residential and regional authorities. Its off-grid markets include the French overseas territories, which are mainly made up of islands where the electricity grid infrastructure is non-existent or very basic, mobile telecoms providers across the African continent and the oil and gas sectors in the Middle East and North Africa. The company has built up extensive experience in supplying and installing off-grid PV systems. Earlier this year Total sold Tenesol to SunPower, in which it is also a shareholder.