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Going with the Flow

posted Apr 26, 2018, 7:47 PM by Nate Shanklin

Storage and smart inverters bring lasting relevance to the renewable industry

The solar business as we know it is on its way out.  The days of large ground mounted systems dumping energy on the grid when the sun shined or roof top systems not being able to support second shift operations are over. Smarter solutions are here to take their place.

Simply put, the renewable energy business is turning into an on demand custom solutions industry.  As the tools become available, we are beginning to see systems that are addressing issues never before tackled by any form of energy generation...  

And that is really it, generation is not the key. Generation is not what customers buy, they buy delivery.  Up until now, if demand overloaded a line, then heavier infrastructure and generation was the only answer. Renewables, in an effort to overcome a limitation of intermittency, developed storage and delivery systems.  These systems do not depend on more and more energy to solve problems on the grid. They depend on the storage and efficient distribution of the energy that is already there.

Problems of a certain scale and magnitude do not always hit home directly. Their effects are just too generalized.  The disfunction of the grid is not such an issue. Each month, utility subscribers pay for this problem in the form of demand and capacity payments.  The problem is that generation is traditionally fixed, whereas usage is variable. On many electric bills, demand and similar charges represent 40%+ of the total bill.  This is not energy used. This is energy demanded for a moment and then problematically and expensively supplied. As the grid begins to attempt to mend these issues, businesses are wasting no time addressing the issue from their end. Through the proper application of renewables and storage solutions, businesses now have the ability to massively shrink their presence on the grid and their exposure to its costs.  We are seeing the adoption of these technologies as a growing and possibly industry shifting force for utilities.

As this industry marches forth, the growing prevalence of batteries and storage solutions means that renewables can now offer the kind of reliability and flexibility that we could only have dreamt of a few years back.  In a big way, stability has always been the missing component for renewables to achieve true relevance. With this matter in hand, it is time for renewables to truly shine.