Solar Energy Storage: Essential for Energy Transition
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Solar Energy Storage: Essential for Energy Transition

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Antonio Gozain By Antonio Gozain | Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst - Tue, 02/28/2023 - 17:40

As the world transitions to cleaner energy sources, solar power has emerged as a popular option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, solar power generation comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest obstacles is the intermittent nature of solar energy production due to fluctuations in weather conditions. To address this issue, energy storage has become an increasingly important component of solar energy systems, agreed industry experts.

“Mexico is going through a very important industrial growth. However, there is an issue regarding energy growth and problems related to it have appeared in certain regions of the country. Batteries and energy storage represent a great opportunity for the country. With the necessary technology and financing instruments already available, regulation must catch up to take advantage of this energy storage opportunity,” said Carla Ortiz, Country Manager, RER Energy Group.

Energy storage technologies allow solar energy systems to store excess electricity produced during periods of high solar radiation and release it during periods of low radiation. This helps to ensure a more reliable supply of energy, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and stabilize the electricity grid.

Storage can also help smooth out variations in how solar energy flows to the grid since intermittency poses a major challenge for network operators. These variations are attributable to changes in the amount of sunlight that shines onto photovoltaic (PV) solar panels or concentrated solar-thermal power systems (CSP), according to the US Department of Energy. Storage can be co-located with or placed next to a solar energy system, although sometimes the storage system stands alone. In either configuration, it helps to integrate solar into the energy landscape more effectively.

Mexico’s grid struggles to keep up with the pace of renewable energy growth. The transmission and distribution system faces challenges in certain regions regarding oversaturation, causing interruptions and increasing the need for energy security. “Examining Mexico’s energy mix, energy storage would help to stabilize the grid, reduce the impact of intermittent renewable energy sources, decongest the grid and support the planet itself by significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Óscar García, Chief Growth Officer, Enlight. In recent years, the cost of energy storage technologies has dropped significantly, making them more accessible to businesses. “A sharp drop in prices has materialized. It is estimated that storing 1kWh will cost US$58 by 2030,” added García.

As countries and companies strive to meet their decarbonization goals, the integration of solar energy with energy storage will continue to grow in popularity in the coming years. “The combination of solar with energy storage presents a great business opportunity, and one that is poised to make a significant impact on the global energy landscape,” said Patricia Tatto, Vice President Americas, ATA Renewables.

The most common type of energy storage in the grid is pumped hydropower, but there are other types of storage available, including electrochemical storage and thermal storage.  The latter two are especially efficient in combination with different solar tech. Electrochemical storage, such as batteries, is commonly coupled with PV plants, while thermal storage, using fluids like water or molten salt, is paired with CSP plants. Other storage types, such as compressed air and flywheels, offer unique characteristics like a rapid discharge or massive capacity. This makes them attractive to grid operators that need to balance tricky supply and demand curves, according to the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

While battery storage is one of the most viable options to counteract the intermittency of renewable energy, the current regulatory framework in Mexico does not have a specific regulation for accumulated electrical energy. “The issue of batteries in solar energy depends on regulation, which greatly impacts business projections and funding,” said Ian De la Garza, CEO, Finsolar. What is more, incentives to reward those bringing useful backup to the grid are lacking.

Nevertheless, using solar and storage as a combination is often viable for offtakers looking to simply cut costs and boost their sustainability. Amid the global energy transition and considering the current growth of Mexico’s industries, companies that invest in energy storage now will be well-positioned to take advantage of this growing market and contribute to Mexico’s clean energy transition, concluded de la Garza.

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