We have seen a gradual increase in solar energy on roofs, but we must ask, what does that mean for integrated solar energy solutions with batteries and smart inverters.
We spoke to Michael Rush, who represents Canadian Solar to ask some questions about the shift to more individual energy solutions.
What we are seeing is that an increase in demand for lithium-based batteries from the greater use of Electric Vehicles has meant the cost of batteries is yet to reduce. But as a driver of batteries, the ongoing reduction of feed-in tariffs, could mean energy retailers, aiming to slow the growth of solar, actually are creating a increase in home storage battery demand.
Michael Rush has been in the solar industry for close to 20 years. While in the past, it was all about solar panels and inverters, it is now becoming more and more about individual energy solutions.
So why not ask a real solar veteran about the future of solar and batteries?
Markus Lambert: How have you seen the industry evolve in the last ten years as we move into a new direction with batteries? Where’s it all going?
Michael Rush: Yeah, certainly. The battery thing is, is huge now. I mean, you know, we’re seeing the same sort of cost reductions in the battery space that we’ve seen in modules and inverters over the last 5 to 10 years. So the batteries are dropping pretty quickly now. So yeah, it’s great.
Markus Lambert: What I’ve heard is that: Lithium is being pulled out of the mines really for the electric cars, and there’s not that much available for the home battery market. So it hasn’t gone down as quickly as with the panels as we were hoping.
Michael Rush: Maybe not quite as fast, but we’re still seeing pretty good reductions over the past four or five years from when we started to see home batteries really introduced for grid connect. There’s been a significant downward move, and that’s just, you know, volume and adoption and all that sort of thing.
Markus Lambert: Now you represent a panel manufacturer (Canadian Solar). I’ve seen some panel manufacturers also move into the inverter and the battery space, trying to create that all-in-one-home solution.
Michael Rush: Yep.
Markus Lambert: But the reality is also some people argue that you stay better to what you’re a specialist in because it’s very hard for you to compete outside your area of expertise.
What are we to expect of growth in residential batteries and inverters?
Michael Rush: We’ve actually been involved in inverters for a good six or seven years now already in some of our overseas markets. So we’ve got, you know, pretty decent credentials and good credentials in terms of design and understanding that space. So it’s funny you mention that we’re only just launching our inverter offering in the Australian market soon.
Markus Lambert: So what is that going to be, a five, ten, 15kW various model?
Michael Rush: Yeah, we will start off with residential, and we’ll grow that. We already have offerings in the utility space, and we have done this for some time, but certainly, the residential will be the kickoff and yeah. Five to around 20kW will be the initial offer.
Markus Lambert: And then a battery?
Michael Rush: Yeah, probably. We’re already doing batteries at a utility-scale, particularly in the US. I think we’ve got a gigawatt under contract there that’s being built at the moment that we’re delivering. So yeah, the next step will be to bring that technology down to the residential level; eventually, I think.
As we shift into more renewable energy use, what will this do to the solar market?
Markus Lambert: Where is that whole market in Australia going? I mean we’ve got a relatively high roof penetration now, we’ve got the issue, we’ve maybe too much solar being generated in the middle of the day. The electric vehicle that could potentially soak up that solar is not really being pushed by the government as yet.
So the framework is not there for the solar manufacturers and for the vehicle manufacturers to really feel comfortable coming in big numbers to Australia. So what kind of sitting there bit in a hiatus?
Michael Rush: We see this with any new technology adoption that there’s a period where, you know, it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of movement, and then suddenly there’s some impetus. I think that impetus may be where consumers aren’t getting much in the way of a feed-in tariff, and we know they get a bit disgruntled with utilities and retailers from time to time, and they’re not getting their fair share of the pie.
So I think that will push people to look at adopting batteries probably they otherwise wouldn’t have if they had a healthy feed-in tariff. So it’ll feed into that as well.
Markus Lambert: Energy retailers who want to maybe slow solar down by paying a low feed-in tariff might actually give a whole new industry another lift up.
Michael Rush: Absolutely, yeah.
Markus Lambert: Okay. Well, thank you.
Michael Rush: Cheers.
So there you have it. As per Michael Rush from Canadian Solar batteries and integrated solutions will be becoming more and more a part of the smart home.
And the strategy by energy retailers to slow down solar by offering a lower feed in tariff, might backfire because it could start a really big demand for batteries.