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SOLAR HOME STORAGE: IS INDIA READY?

SOLAR HOME STORAGE

The solar industry is churning new dialogues to woo clean energy and become self-reliant for all the modern power needs. When modules gets nodal nudge the billion-dollar market influxes with a proficient game-plan. Climate change concerns, state initiatives including solar portfolio standards, and consumer efforts are resulting in increased deployments of clean technologies. Solar photovoltaics (PV) have variable and uncertain (sometimes referred to as “intermittent”) output, which are unlike the dispatchable sources used for the majority of electricity generation across the globe. The variability of these sources has led to concerns regarding the reliability of an electric grid that derives a large fraction of its energy from these sources as well as the cost of reliably integrating large amounts of variable generation into the electric grid. The rise of distributed solar photovoltaics (PV) brings opportunities and challenges to conventional electricity networks characterised by centralised electricity generation. Broad distribution of small-scale energy storage could– interestingly–help to address some of these issues, while at the same time also assisting many households and businesses in reducing their reliance on grid electricity more than ever before possible. One of the technical challenges associated with distributed solar power is the issue of intermittency. Solar panels will produce electricity steadily and predictably throughout the day as long as the sun is shining. But when the sky is partly cloudy, solar output can fluctuate potentially requiring a storage system.

‘Self-consumption’ and Off-grid of Solar Power is Now the Norm

Despite the fact that most of the state-based feed-in tariffs have now been severely cut back or altogether eliminated, the case for going solar still remains strong. There are many reasons to add solar panels to your home. Government incentives alone can make solar attractive. But what if you don’t use all the solar power you are generating? If your home is entirely off-grid, that excess power will go to waste. If your home is grid-tied, your locality may allow you to sell the excess back to the grid through net metering or a feed in tariff. But this capability is not universally available, nor is it valued the same everywhere. Therefore, installing batteries allows you to consume all this excess power yourself, when you want it. Your solar power can go from variable to dispatchable-in other words, you can pick and choose the times to use the energy. Of course, installing an energy storage system also increases the overall cost of the electricity produced–and energy storage is still not as inexpensive as many would like it to be.

Catherine Von BurgCatherine Von Burg, CEO of SimpliPhi Power, said, Similar to solar, new energy storage technology continues to emerge and costs continue to decline. As a result, customers and installers are increasingly interested in understanding how to integrate storage solutions into their off-grid solar systems for both new installations and retr-ofits. Additionally, losses sustained from centralized power outages in commercial and industrial markets will continue to increase the demand for distributed, on-site power storage and generation. This is (and will continue to be) a market driver for residential markets as well. Finally, storage stands to play a key role in extending reliable access to energy beyond transmission lines to the approximately 1.2 billion people living without access, and the 1.4 billion with intermittent access to the grid. This is proving to be a strong, steady market for growth as solar+storage leapfrogs the need for transmission lines and infrastructure. The economic impact in these rural off-grid communities creates an almost immediate ROI.

Rajesh Gupta, Director, OKAYA Power Pvt. Limited noted on the viability of Home Storage amid the falling cost of Off-grid solar systems, he said, the costs of producing solar energy on a large scale have been too high to make it a viable alternative power source. Now that the Off-grid solar systems are becoming more affordable is the most favourable scenario as cost-effectiveness is the key to increase the demand for solar power. Going forward, the emerging scenario will bring cost of Solar Energy more in line with traditional forms of energy production. Thus, apart from making solar energy a more attractive option then conventional electricity, the affordable off-grid solar systems will enable the Solar Home Storage solution providers to store solar energy on more eco-nomical costs. Obviously now the demand for Solar Home Storage solution equipments will increase which will open floodgates of opportunity for Solar Home Storage solution providers.

Luminous said, solar storage shall form an integral part of residential & small commercial installations. A need for power autonomy & self-reliance coupled with the grid tariff shall drive trend in future. We expect around 70% of roof top installations to incorporate storage capability. This will allow consumer to maximize benefit of solar generation at residences – an economical, green & reliable power.

Kunwer SachdevKunwer Sachdev, MD Su-Kam, said, The rural population of India is about 90Crore out of which 30Crore are living in areas where no electricity is available. India is a price sensitive market as the price of solar comes down as it already is we will see increasing solar installations across India.

Key Technologies Which is Set to take the Charts for Home Storage

Researchers estimate that adding energy storage to a household with solar panels increases its annual energy consumption by about 324 to 591 kilowatt-hours. But what technologies will keep the system on guard for a longer period of time making price-sense for individual consumers? The tenure of Lithium ion batteries still finds space there are hopeful market-leaders who mulls that the home storage technology is set to drastically change in the coming period.

The major problem faced today is main-tenance of power storage. Therefore Lithium ion batteries are going to be the future for all rooftop and residential storage purposes. They are easy to maintain and store a larger amount of charge as compared to other storage devices. As of now lithium ion batteries can be considered as an expensive commodity but it has far better performance than other types of batteries. Like solar, lithium ion batteries must also be made affordable for all. Talking about lead acid batteries that are widely manufactured today – the cost of lead is mercurial. It has increased from INR 100 per kg to INR 150 per kg in the last couple of months that is a major concern for capital intensive industries. Along with that the shelf life of such batteries is also a matter of concern. There is a lot of confusion in the market about solar batteries and their rating. Su- Kam has taken the initiative to spread the right knowledge about batteries in a simple format for everyone to understand through our YouTube channel, said Kunwer Sachdev, MD, Su-Kam.

Arvind KhannaArvind Khanna, Sr. VP, Solar Business Luminous Power Technologies thinks, as for storage technology for residential Storage System is concerned, apparently Li FP shall emerge as most viable in terms of price & performance. Storage Technologies shall be strengthened by intuitive BMS with powerful GUI which shall empower the consumer & allow them to make the best out of their energy.

Catherine Von Burg, CEO of SimpliPhi Power, asserts, In India, storage tech-nologies must be resilient enough to with-stand extreme heat. So, storage tech-nologies that do not utilize hazardous and toxic chemistries, such as the lithium cobalt based batteries, are key. The unstable cobalt oxide based lithium chemistries, such as NMC, can heat up to very high internal temperatures during the charge and discharge cycle and are prone to creating dangerous chemical fires. Called thermal runaway, this an uncontrollable feedback in which heat build-up breaks down a battery’s chemistry, releasing oxides that can make a fire burn out of control. Due to the low temperature at which cobalt oxide can catch fire , the extremely high temperature at which it burns and the chemical composition itself, there is no known flame retardant that can extinguish the fires once they ignite. They can only be controlled and managed and allowed to burn until they self-extinguish. To try and reduce the chances of thermal runaway, active ventilation and cooling equipment must be used, which is an added cost to the energy storage system itself.

SimpliPhi’s technology only utilizes the latest innovations in patented, licensed lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) cells that do not pose the threat of thermal runaway and do not require any cooling for performance or safety, either internal to the battery or external to maintain optimal ambient temperatures in the installation. Unlike lithium batteries that utilize cobalt oxide, the nature of the LFP cell chemistry is non-hazardous and incapable of spontaneous thermal runaway under any condition. Additionally, our exclusive battery mana-gement system (BMS), proprietary arch-itecture and assembly methods of the LFP cell packs deliver the least amount of internal resistance and heat build-up, even at high capacity discharge rates. Without having to offset heat generation, the thermal stability and resiliency around a wider thermal window, SimpliPhi batteries eliminate the risk of catastrophic failure typically associated with cobalt-based lithium batteries, which is essential for India’s hot climate.

RAJESH GUPTAEnergy storage technology is the key to popularizing solar energy generation. Looking at the extensive energy require-ment, large scale storage technologies are being promoted by the government as need of the hour; however, these technologies have to face various challenges in their operations. Driven primarily through gov-ernment’ inc-entives, these technologies are difficult to be maintained over the long term. It has been observed that if the incentives are removed may be due to a lack of organic demand, the model fails. It is therefore, the key storage technologies which in the current scenario will be of more sense for accelerating rooftop and residential segment in India will be the extensive use of solar batteries which are charged by individual rooftop solar panels. Solar energy is growing by leaps and bounds in India and Okaya has also diversified into Solar batteries, noted Rajesh Gupta, Director, OKAYA Power Pvt. Limited.

Companies that provide a fully integrated solution, including all required hardware and software in a single plug-and-play box, will get the most initial traction from experienced installers. Hence, the storage players have to tweak the technology blueprints to map the new corridors of storage technologies.

Driving the Solar Home Storage in India

India’s 100 GW dream brings a sheer charm to the solar industry, it also winks the storage players with special provisions. The collective strive today is to bring the storage players to the mainstream of the pragmatic solar dream. But still there are mixed retort among the major storage players.

Arvind Khanna, Sr. VP, Solar Business Luminous Power Technologies said, cur-rently, storage requirement is seen together with the outages & the need for back-up there-off. Solar shall be become an attractive alternative to grid, as the solar generation cost gets cheaper & capital cost of the system goes down. On the equipment

side the consumer expects i) storage to be maintenance free & high performance ii) Solar hybrid inverters (with provision for grid connectivity & storage) with higher reliability & lower price points. This along with policy changes can accelerate the growth in home storage segment.

Catherine Von Burg, CEO of SimpliPhi Power, said, Establishing distribution part-nerships is a major key to driving storage in India. At SimpliPhi, we are in discussion with PV installers and real estate developers because of the real opportunities there are to work with distribution companies in India. Through collaboration, in the private and public sectors, as well as within government, storage can be instrumental in helping India achieve its goal to generate 40 GW of solar PV capacity by 2020. Additionally, a distrib-uted, modular approach to solar+storage, that can scale up, addresses a range of needs in India’s market.

Lack of manufacturing facilities of the equi-pments, lack of skilled workforce and lack of business models and regulatory challenges are among the major bottlenecks in the way of speedy growth of home storage segment for solar energy in India. If the concerned authorities may lay the required emphasis on tackling these challenges in cohesive manner the home storage segment in India will achieve its desired growth and objective, comments Rajesh Gupta, Director, OKAYA Power Pvt. Limited.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance, forecasts the energy storage market may be valued at $250 billion or more by 2040. It expects 25 GW of the devices to be deployed by 2028, about the size of the small-scale photovoltaic industry now. When predictions keeps the light on, Indian policies specifically still needs to create a way to impetus the solar home storage segment. A study has found that 3 GW of solar rooftop can be installed on new residential societies in India over the next five-seven years which also brings new market scopes for residential focused storage players.

Indian Market and Impedence for Storage Players

Solar+storage is not without challenge, however, deployment of solar power and storage would be accelerated by addressing the risks, like concerns for safety in ins-tallations, reliability and performance, and costs of operation and maintenance and undoubtedly awareness. Experts assert there are challenges on financing part, specifically – While solar power is a mature technology that is regularly commercially financed, storage is not as mature. Financiers do not yet believe the promises being made by this technology. Independent third-party reviews and high-level reviews of energy storage companies will help boost this confidence, with reliability of the technology being the most critical factor.

Catherine Von Burg, CEO of SimpliPhi Power, asserts that agreements between product providers and local distributors are key to increasing energy storage dep-loyments in India, but it’s only the first step. These agreements must translate into on-the-ground sales efforts. Also, very often the question of up-front price is confused with the true cost of an energy storage solution over the life of the installation. Customers in India need to be educated on the relative merits of different performance profiles of batteries and how those profiles, such as efficiency rate, cycle life, depth of discharge and optimal operating temperature directly impact the ROI, beyond the upfront price point. This also includes any hazards that need to be taken into consideration in terms of fire and insurance policies.

Arvind Khanna, Sr. VP, Solar Business, Luminous Power Technologies, cites Indian players have been focused on proven & established technologies & accordingly the capabilities are committed. To invest in the evolving technology & betting on the right alternative is a tough call.

Rajesh Gupta, Director, OKAYA Power Pvt. Limited, said, slow off take of rooftop solar power projects and lack of consumer awareness with regard to major benefits of solar power over the traditional forms of energy production are among the impedance today faced by the storage players. Easy availability of solar batteries and consumer awareness drives to be run side-by-side besides development of more and more solar parks and ultra-mega solar power projects are the effective ways to rout it.

Citing on their challenge, Kunwer Sachdev, MD Su-Kam, said, The major challenge that we have faced on ground level is the lack of knowledge of basic storage devices. It is widely assumed that solar batteries are different from normal lead acid batteries in terms of rating as well as charging profile. In reality there is no difference in them. The solar batteries are similar to any ordinary lead acid battery in all technical terms. To clarify the same, Su-Kam has carried out a number of campaigns that have focused on bringing the right knowledge to the concerned people. We have also taken steps such as printing battery ratings like C10, C20 on all our batteries for further clarifications. Another challenge faced by battery manufacturers in India is creating an efficient distribution system taking into consideration essential parameters such as battery shelf life and related service issues. Su-Kam has taken significant steps towards achieving the same.

Modelling Business for Home Storage

India has critical needs given to its economic valuation for solar needs; in that moment a persuasive business models will be a tussle for storage players comprising tec-hnology and economic sense at one piece. To add more, the spur of rooftop solar will be also crucial searching the demand for storage. Hence, the interdependency will also kneejerk this segment. Hence attracting customers to opt storage will give birth to unique business models as par to take the market retention across the Indian eco-system.

Rajesh Gupta, Director, OKAYA Power Pvt. Limited, said, A combination of solar panels and highly-efficient batteries with smart control technology which allow the customers to manage demand and the cost of energy, create a completely different and much desired business model to sneak into this segment. This is the need of the hour for the players who wish to excel in Home storage segment.

Catherine Von Burg, CEO of SimpliPhi Power, said, The intersection of pay-as-you-go (PayGo) mobile payments and affordable off-grid solar power is driving alternative business models in India. In addition to providing access to energy, these dynamic paradigms are creating personal financial wellbeing and prosperity for people living at the lower socio-economic strata. The PayGo off-grid solar+storage mini- and microgrid markets are gaining traction in Pakistan and Nigeria, with India also experiencing growth. Energy storage companies are helping fuel development of these markets in emerging economies, and without the burden of old infrastructure, SimpliPhi Power has the capability of helping people leapfrog the grid and failing, costly infrastructure altogether.

Arvind Khanna, Sr. VP, Solar Business, Luminous Power Technologies, said, There’s possibility of many new business models to emerge based on consumer needs, some of the new possibilities could be i) Leasing ii) Use & Pay – almost like utility iii) zero maintenance ownership etc.

While study asserts that India is on the verge of a storage revolution wherein this segment will account 70 GW/200 GWhr of storage by 2022.

Arvind Khanna, Sr. VP, Solar Business, Luminous Power Technologies noted that The Data seems to be skewed?? These are targets taken by GOI & current policies are focused on Grid Tie Roof Top Systems. It req-

uires few policy changes & similar support to storage based solar roof top systems. Cost of Solar Capital Equipment, solar generation cost, easy availability of finance & emergence of customer friendly business models could be few drivers for this growth.

Whereas, Rajesh Gupta, Director, OKAYA Power Pvt. Limited thinks, Conducive policy environment and effective implementation of the strategic plans are the two important factors which may drive these promising figures.

Catherine Von Burg, CEO of SimpliPhi Power, extended concerns by saying that, India’s grid lacks stability, making it an unreliable source of power. Additionally, without energy storage, renewable sources of power are intermittent. Storage is gaining more interest because it stands to optimize any power generation asset, be it from the grid, diesel generator, solar, wind or other source, and we only see thiRajesh Gupta, Director, OKAYA Powers interest growing in scope in the near future. The potential market for energy storage in India is vast. SimpliPhi is at the cutting edge – providing breakthrough technology that’s non-toxic, safe, high-performing, rugged and reliable. With its renewable energy generation goals paired with storage, India has the potential to be powered by more clean electricity, with access that extends beyond transmission lines. Our robust, long-lasting storage solutions support that vision. SimpliPhi’s residential, commercial and industrial energy storage and management systems do for the power industry what mobile phones did for the communications industry – allow freedom of access anytime, anywhere, regardless of transmission lines at work, at home or on the go.

Stimulating Potential of Solar Home

Storage in Today’s Scenario

To note that its overall solar optimism ‘is tempered by realism that energy storage systems are not commercially economic yet for all customers, and that more work needs to be done by industry, government and regulators to support the continuing cost reductions. It also adds the concern about the potential for exaggerating the impact storage can have now and also the potential for mis-selling, which must be guarded against. More generally it says ‘a need for storage is at times being used as a negative for solar, rather than a missing part of the overall puzzle. For example, there is some perception of storage as the solution required before increasing solar penetration, rather than a technology that can allow both industries to flourish far beyond even the large volume of solar that could be accommodated cost-effectively in our electricity system’.

Nevertheless, if problems like this can be overcome or avoided, the report is very enthusiastic about the future of storage: there is a move towards variable renewables and more decentralised and flexible energy systems globally, which have benefits in terms of costs, carbon and certainty (security of supply). Storage can play an increasingly important role in this transition, which provides the potential for a vast market in the long term.

Sharing a pragmatic dialogue, Rajesh Gupta, Director, OKAYA Power Pvt. Limited, cited, India is such a huge country and a land of villages where unmet demand for electricity presents enormous opportunities for Solar Home Storage solutions providing companies. According to a report from the London-based Climate Group and the Goldman Sachs Center for Environmental Markets, Solar Home Storage solutions will be an important component of solar home systems in the country, sales of which are expected to grow at 60 percent a year between now and 2018. The biggest challenge which it brings for the solution providers is to make the product available at an affordable price, because the major target groups reside in the villages and tier-III and IV cities across the country and all the prospective customers at all these locations are very price sensitive.

The Solar Home Storage offers an unique opportunity for the solution providers. This is one segment which is bound to grow multifold in future & the future belongs Service & Solution providers. Each player has to create a differentiated consumer experience by making it affordable, reliable & above all convenient, extended Arvind Khanna, Sr. VP, Solar Business, Luminous Power Technologies.

As mentioned, Solar home storage has a growing potential in the Indian market pro-vided certain challenges are seriously taken into consideration. Storage manufactures in India need their product to be formally approved by certified government agencies such as the MNRE which is a long and a tedious process. A transparent and quick solution to this would make all the diff-erence. Other than this, Chinese products offer cheap solution for the above without proper knowledge to increase shelf life and efficiency of storage devices. Certain new technologies adopted by Su-Kam are the MPPT technology for the solar charge controllers that extract 30% more energy as compared to PWM charge controllers that are widely used due to their cheap manufacturing and selling cost but it is essential to understand that by installing MPPT instead of PWM the end customer benefits highly in terms of revenue as well as better battery backup and battery life in the long run. It is important to communicate and create awareness of such technologies in the market for one and all to know and utilize. Su-Kam has developed easy to understand videos wherein new technologies in solar power have been explained, added Kunwer Sachdev, MD Su-Kam.

To put an upfront opinion, it is known that grid links will still be needed for most of the PV schemes, large and small, including those with storage, but it is all still about decentralising power generation. Indeed, some say we should re-plan the whole energy system from the bottom up. That may be hard. But it is clear that the system that is emerging, as distributed energy systems spread, will be different from the top-down centralised system we have now, and storage is part of that. But to the facts of India’s Clean energy run and power demands, home sto-rage foraying into home will emerge as the biggest game-changer in today’s Indian scenario and it depends on how policy and providers join hands to bring things on track.

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