Energy storage could be a very attractive prospect for users of photovoltaic energy, particularly in markets where electricity retail costs are high. One such market is Italy: 550,000 installations, over 90% of which are on rooftops. A market which is currently static, but which could explode at any time.
“The cost is still too high, in the absence of incentives like those in Germany, to guarantee a return on your investment within a time frame that is inviting to families; and the situation is even less attractive for businesses. However, partly thanks to electric car industry developments, the cost is falling. The threshold at which such systems become a more attractive option should be reached within 2-3 years”, explains Simone Franzò from the Energy & Strategy Group of the Politecnico di Milano University, speaking to QualEnergia.it.
Marco Pigni, from Fiamm, the largest Italian manufacturer of batteries, confirms this: “the increase in our production should bring a drop in prices of around 30-50% within 3-4 years. This means that paying off the battery, via increased self-consumption, should take less than 10 years.”
Regulatory uncertainties are also holding back the battery market at the moment. “A definitive regulation is expected during 2014, meaning that the market is almost at a standstill”, stated Luca Zingale, scientific director of Solarexpo – The Innovation Cloud. “Despite this – he added – various storage solutions were presented in the 2013 edition of the fair, and we will see even more at the 2014 event”. “The possibility of combining batteries with solar power – he continues – will be very successful in Italy, a country where electricity is very expensive, making a PV installation more beneficial for those who are often out of the house during the day. With an increase in the quantity of energy saved, it will also benefit businesses who choose SEU configurations, which allow producers to sell energy directly to a client, for example by having a PV system installed on their roof. We must also not forget the psychological and political aspects of storage solutions, which many view as a way of making the consumer as independent as possible from the energy companies.”
In reality, some have already made their move: “Since 2009, with the collaboration of the University of Ancona – reports Roberto Mattioli from Energy Resources –we have been experimenting with business and domestic storage systems, and have had excellent results. We have placed them within a wider context of renewable technologies, energy efficiency, domotics and electric mobility”.
“In six months” – explains Paolo Casini, marketing director at Power One – “our new inverter for photovoltaic energy with a modular lithium battery will go on sale. Its use should already be cost-effective in Italy, Germany and the UK, everywhere where the cost of electricity is high: over the twenty-year life of a system, with a change of battery after ten years, the average return rate could be around 5-6%. At the beginning, we count on high sales in Germany, thanks to the incentives, but we are sure that as soon as the regulations come into force, and the prices of batteries (which represent 70% of the cost of our product) fall, there will be demand in Italy as well. For an average family, the 2 kWh version should allow them to switch from an average self- consumption of 30 to 70%, speeding up the return on their investment”.
However, there is a storage solution that bypasses all current regulatory issues. Both Solon Italia and Albasolar have had the idea to offer storage systems combined with systems which recharge a battery but don’t directly introduce electricity into the grid.