Jordan A. Davis

Determining the True Value of Solar & Battery Backup Power

There’s no denying that energy storage is gaining momentum in the public consciousness. It continues to weave in and out of all types of discussion–whether it be political, environmental, technological or economical. And as mass blackouts and power outages pop up more and more, it has become clear that the traditional electric grid is in desperate need of strengthening and diversity. 

We wrote recently about a series of outages in California that impacted hundreds of thousands of customers–a situation that could’ve been entirely avoided with the adoption of energy storage. 

As arguments about how to modernize the grid unfold, energy storage has become the front-runner as a potentially viable solution to that problem. And not only creating grid resiliency but also offering opportunities for job creation, cost savings, safety and reliability. Furthermore, energy storage boasts environmental benefits by alleviating dependence on fossil fuels in favor of renewables such as wind and solar. 

With all of the above said, the next logical question is: “Sure, that sounds great, but what is the true value of the supposed resilience that energy storage will provide?”

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Jordan A. Davis

Reverse DC-Coupled PV+Storage

In 2018, Dynapower deployed the first DC-DC converter in a DC-coupled PV+S (PV + storage) configuration at an existing utility-scale PV+S installation.

Since then, the innovative solar-plus-storage solution has gained traction due to the ability of DC-coupled PV+S to increase PV energy capture and decrease the costs as compared to AC-coupled energy storage solutions.

Recent reports from IHS Markit and Wood Mackenzie (GTM) forecast DC-Coupled PV+S will be the standard hybrid PV+S topology by 2023 because of its economic advantages over AC-coupled solar plus storage solutions.

Dynapower is currently delivering two DC-coupled PV+S configurations for our customers. Each has specific use case advantages. We work closely with our customers to determine which DC-coupled configuration is best suited for the customer’s application. Here we examine each.

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Dynapower Launches DC-DC Converter Partner Program For Central Solar Inverter Manufacturers

Dynapower, the leading independent manufacturer of power electronics for energy storage, is pleased to announce the introduction of a DC-DC partner program for central, solar inverter manufacturers. The program enables participating central, solar inverter manufacturers to include Dynapower’s patent-pending DC-DC converters as part of their utility-scale offering.

Dynapower was the first to commercially deploy DC-DC converters in utility-scale solar plus storage application, and received the 2018 EES (Electrical Energy Storage) Innovation Award for its DC-DC converters.

Dynapower’s parallelable 250kW and 375kW DC-DC converters are proven to improve project economics for utility-scale solar owners. The DPS line increases energy production, and enables PV energy to be a time shifted for peak demand events… A recent NREL report cites DC-coupled approach as the most economically advantageous solution for utility-scale solar plus storage.

“We’ve had a tremendous response to our DPS line of DC-DC converters from solar developers and installation owners. We want to be sure that our technology is available to as many customers as possible so we can help accelerate the deployment of utility-scale solar, in the transition to a more sustainable grid,” said Chip Palombini, Director of Energy Storage.

Benefits of the program for participating central inverter manufacturers include access to Dynapower’s patent-pending DC-DC converter technology, OEM channel pricing, and engineering support for DC-coupled utility-scale solar plus storage projects. If you are a central solar inverter manufacturer click here to learn more.

Dynapower’s DPS-250 and DPS-375 can be paralleled to 3MW, and are available as part of a fully-integrated BESS. They have been deployed in installations in Florida and North Carolina and will be deployed in numerous other installations nationwide this year. “This is a very exciting time in solar plus storage,” said Palombini.

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AC vs. DC Coupling For Solar Plus Energy Storage Projects

NORTH AMERICA currently has tens of gigawatts of installed utility-scale PV generation with many more gigawatts under construction. Utility-scale solar will only reach its fullest financial and energy generating potential with the addition of energy storage, however. The majority of utility-scale PV base could expand energy production and increase revenues with the addition of energy storage. Choosing the right topology is critical to maximizing the impact of coupling energy storage with utility-scale solar installations.

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Maximize PV Production with Energy Storage & a DC-to-DC Converter

Traditional storage plus solar (PV) applications have involved the coupling of independent storage and PV inverters at an AC bus, or alternatively the use of multi-input hybrid inverters. Here we will examine how a new cost-effective approach of coupling energy storage to existing PV arrays with a DC-to-DC converter can help maximize production and profits for existing and new utility-scale installations. This new approach leads to higher round trip efficiencies and lower cost of integration with existing PV arrays, and at the same time opens up new use cases not possible with traditional AC-coupled storage.

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Storage System Options to Maximize Production of Utility-Scale PV

NORTH AMERICA currently has over 20 GW of installed utility-scale PV generation with 2016 seeing the largest amount of PV installed to date with over 14 GW brought online. The majority of this installed utility-scale PV base could expand production hours and increase production with the addition of solar plus storage.

Here we will examine the coupling of energy storage with PV by comparing the three principal methodologies for doing so: AC-coupled, DC-coupled, and hybrid solar plus storage inverters. We will also consider all possible revenue streams of solar plus storage and their availability based on available systems for coupling solar plus storage. Read more

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Solar-Plus-Storage Cost Drivers

Solar-Plus-Storage Cost Drivers

According to GTM Research, last year less than one-tenth of one percent of solar PV installations included battery storage. These stats may suggest that the market isn’t ready for storage yet, but the reality could not be more different.

Early visionaries and advocates for the solar-plus-storage combination have generated a high level of industry attention and activity. The result is that users looking to augment their PV systems for better performance and value are signing on as technologies improve and costs fall.

One reason for this heightened interest is the rapidly declining costs of not only batteries, but of the entire solar-plus-storage system. Balance of system (BOS) components are relatively mature and suppliers are leveraging advanced materials and efficiencies in production and supply chains to keep costs down. Energy storage inverters, including solar plus storage inverters, from Dynapower, for example, are third-generation technologies that, like many high-tech products, offer increasingly superior capabilities and performance at very competitive prices.

A closer look reveals that costs for storage-plus-solar systems are also driven by the applications they’re used for. In low C-rate (high-energy, longer-duration) applications, batteries dominate the cost, increasing total project cost. On the other hand, in high C-rate applications, such as frequency regulation, peak shaving and other services, the cost for batteries is relatively small in proportion to BOS, resulting in a lower cost system.

The high and low C-rate cost breakdown is illustrated here:

A bar chart comparing the costs of a 2C and 0.5C solar plus storage projects.

Comparison of solar plus storage project costs at 2C and 0.5C for microgrid and grid tied applications.

The variable in this equation is the energy storage integration/EMS software. Pricing for this system element varies based on the complexity of the job – and is relatively independent from project size.

The solar plus storage market is growing – but what’s driving it?

GTM Research reported that solar-plus-storage deployments totaled 4 MW (DC) in 2014, but are expected to grow more than six-fold to 22 MW in 2015. By 2020, solar-plus-storage installations are projected to reach an astonishing 769 MW – nearly 200 times last year’s total. California is expected to be the biggest solar-plus-storage market, with 422 MW installed in 2020 alone.

Some of this expansion will be driven (as it often is) by declining costs, but there are other factors. Changes to net metering rate structures, for example, can tilt the market toward storage deployment for self-consumption of PV. For example, Hawaii, which has the highest percentage of PV on the grid in the country, recently overhauled its net metering policy to encourage self-consumption. This will, without a doubt, drive energy storage deployment.

Looking ahead, PV users will likely be able to offer a stack of services to the grid, such as frequency response, voltage support, and distribution upgrade deferral. A recent report from the Rocky Mountain Institute makes the case that the revenue associated with these additional services could further improve the economics of PV systems paired with smart controls and batteries.

Other factors helping to boost demand and lower costs are the growing emphasis on grid resiliency for energy security and independence, and the proven value of storage in smoothing intermittent renewable resources like PV (and wind).

Many observers have said that energy storage is where PV was six or seven years ago, and believe that the factors that brought PV to mass affordability will have a similar effect on storage. What do you think is the reason for market growth and lower costs?