Battery power – and how we use it – has certainly changed a lot in the last decade. In 2010, we used batteries to power our phones and computers. Today, lithium-ion and other batteries are being used to store enough energy to power cars and even homes.
Electrochemical batteries have existed for over a century while photovoltaic (PV) solar panels have only been used to generate battery power half that time. Since then, solar panels have been used in isolated areas to charge batteries and power things like remote homes, food trucks, satellites and weather stations.
PV systems have also been plugged directly into electrical grids and for twenty years, solar power has supplemented more traditional electricity generators; proving some of its viability and affordability.
Solar panels generating power and batteries capable of storing it is the key to breaking our fossil fuel dependency. Renewable energy is essential to combating the climate crisis, by engineering sustainable power systems we minimise our carbon footprint and our reliance on limited, non-renewable resources.
Efficient storage systems will be required need to store energy for when the wind is not howling and the sun is not glaring. The sustainable power industry has made battery storage a standard component of solar panel installations.
There is massive economic opportunity to be captured in sustainable, eco-friendly and battery-based systems for businesses, policymakers, builders, investors, remote homeowners and so many others. Entire electrical ecosystems are now adapting to this new age of battery-powered and renewable energy.
Growing Storage Capacity and the Battery Supply Chain
With the current growth rate of electric vehicle use around the world, it seems that we may hit peak oil demand much sooner than expected. And not just peak oil demand, with green-generated power alternatives we may reach peak coal demand sooner too.
The world’s largest PV installers like SunPower, Tesla and JinkoSolar have trended towards offering battery storage in conjunction with their solar panel technology. Solar storage capabilities are transforming these businesses from backup or off-grid suppliers into primary electricity providers.
The biggest names in solar panels are putting their voice and their money into marketing to and influencing businesses, governments and consumers to see the potential in self-sufficient, clean power generation.
Compact, effective, long-life lithium-ion batteries have made energy storage much more appealing to the average consumer. Electric vehicles have overtaken consumer electronics in demand for lithium. The primary reason electric vehicles are still so expensive is the cost of requisite raw materials.
According to the International Energy Agency, over two million electric vehicles were purchased last year and of the billion vehicles on Earth, over seven million of them are now electric. While solar power accounts for around one percent of total power generation today.
There is no shortage of investment opportunities in the solar energy industry or the battery storage industry that supports it, especially as governments and international organisations are enabling, subsidising and supporting those trying to transition to clean energy.
Utility-Scale Storage and Political Interest
The growing demand for bigger and better batteries to power electric vehicles and our homes has had a remarkable impact on the battery storage space, in general. As with any new technology, the price of solar is coming down and – combined with incentives from governments – consumers are choosing to switch to the new, self-sufficient, renewable tech.
This is driving innovation in battery technologies, trying to see what kind of storage is possible. The biggest potential market for bigger and better battery storage is not, actually, individual consumers. Rather, renewables are providing more and more power to huge utility companies that supply power to the grid.
Until we secure effective and safe large-capacity battery storage, wind and solar can only be a partial replacement to the harmful fossil fuels these companies usually use. For now, falling battery prices mean that utility companies, businesses and governments are incorporating lithium-ion batteries into their systems more often.
They are also helping to replace diesel generators in places that require constant power, like hospitals and shopping malls. Government incentives, falling eco-friendly energy sources’ costs and improving storage capacity are all accelerating the viability of battery storage alternatives.
Standardising Safety and Normalising Green Energy
Calling something mainstream might carry a negative connotation with it. However, when it comes to battery storage and green energy being a source of power, the more popular the better. Better for our safety and our planet’s safety.
That is why the latest building codes, infrastructural regulations and industry standards are noticing and incorporating conscientious power alternatives, on-site generation and storage as priorities.
This is not just for safer practices in solar panel or battery installations. This if for those who plan to use the power and enforcing requirements that consider the responsibility of generating their own power.
Inspectors, specialists and officials are better versed in, and more considerate of, solar and wind power sources and how they should be used. This may seem like a hindrance to growth but, it actually helps create routines and systems for how this should work at scale while still improving the tech and remaining environmentally harmless.
What Comes Next?
This is just as exciting everywhere in the world. India is creating the largest solar, wind and storage power plant in the world and South Africa is developing a whopping 1.44 gigawatt-hours of battery storage capacity.
All while Tesla are building solar farms with enough energy to power small towns, already. We do not know the perfect type of battery or power-generation method but, we do know that renewable energy generation and battery storage will play a much larger role in powering our lives in the future.