I always enjoy attending the Intersolar Exhibition. The product and technology demos on display are very diverse and there are always some good “take aways”. I will share with you some things I observed while attending Day 3.
This year, similar to past years, the three floors of the San Francisco Moscone West Hall were organized by the various areas within the Solar landscape. On Level 1 there were PV Cells, Modules & Systems, PV Manufacturing Equipment, and PV Materials & Components. Level 2 was full of companies dealing with Energy Storage, Balance of Systems, and Solar Heating & Cooling Technologies. Level 3 topped off the exhibition with miscellaneous PV components and items related to Mounting & Tracking. This year was the seventh annual occurrence of this event. The exhibition floor space seemed to be a bit smaller than last year.
There were several stages with continuous presentations going on. Stage 1 was dedicated to Energy Storage. ViZn Energy Company presented their micro-grid scale energy storage technology. Their Z20 building block is named as such for the Zinc chemistry it uses in its Flow Battery and the 20 foot standard shipping container that it is housed in. The highlights of their product are:
* Reliable/safe Zn/Fe chemistry * 25% savings over conventional battery storage
* Abundant materials * Used on the grid for peak shaving, load shifting, islanding
* Recyclable * 20 year service life
An interesting data point that Ron Van Dell, President/CEO of ViZn Energy Systems, Inc. US, brought up was that in Q1 of 2014, 76% of new energy was derived from solar.
Varta Storage, GmbH, presented information on their Lithium-Ion battery based storage systems (Engion) which target residential and small commercial installations and which are made to complement solar energy systems. Bill Flanagan, President/CEO of VARTA Microbattery, Inc., suggested the four key drivers which make these type of products attractive includes the desire for less oil usage, hesitancy of using nuclear power, natural gas volatility, and the increasing occurrence of natural disasters. He also pointed out that 51% of the renewable energy production is owned by the citizens or farmers and not the energy companies. How do other countries compare?
The third energy storage presentation I attended was presented by Boris von Bormann, Country Manager USA, Sonnenbatterie GmbH. Their Comfort product line, like the previous products, is aimed at residential and commercial installations. The core of the product utilizes Lithium-Ion battery technology with intelligent control. They can provide 15 ms maximum switching time to make the stored energy available.
These three companies are aiming to satisfy the demand for energy storage which is complementary with solar power generation, decentralization of the grid, less reliance on the utility companies, and the desire to reduce fossil fuel usage.
It seems the number of software tools displayed this year was less than last year. Nevertheless, there were some interesting ones to be found.
Solar Census was demonstrating their remote solar shading assessment tool named Surveyor. Using this online tool, much of the shading data that would require a technician to physically roam the install site, can be obtained remotely. Solar Census is working with NREL and is part of the DOE’s SunShot Incubator program. This collaboration has verified that the methods employed produce results that are statistically equivalent to the results obtained using Solmetric SunEye devices onsite.
So what does this buy you? Lower customer acquisition costs; it costs less to gather the background PV system site data remotely than it does to send a technician out to climb on the roof.
Faze-1 has created some online tools that assist with front end customer interaction. Their Sunview tool provides geographical based data to identify high value prospective PV customers and factors in name, site suitability, credit score, owner/rental, and utility rate & territory (ie..Big Data).
SolarTAC (Technology Acceleration Center) is the largest solar technology test facility in the United Sates. Located in Aurora Colorado on 74 acres, SolarTAC provides an important setting for companies with solar technology products to do research, development, testing, collaboration, and refine their products prior to commercial introduction.
The temperature at this facility can be at both extremes so it is ideal for real world environmental testing. The site is large enough to support the testing of such products as CSP and other large form factor solar products. SolarTAC is managed and operated by MRIGlobal which also operates labs for the DOE and is also a partner in NREL.
Security and Safety
There were quite a few companies displaying interconnect products for controlling the connection between grids or between various parts of installations. Some of these products were quite large and capable of handling considerable current.
Viasys Solar Secure is a company which has created a very robust video alarm system to protect solar plants and installations. In a nutshell, it monitors the video capture and detects changes between samples and makes intelligent decisions based on proprietary algorithms. In this way it can intelligently pick out events happening and determine if it they are a real threat. This system is supposed to be easily integrated into SCADA infrastructure which is a core part of the Smart Grid.
For more information on Intersolar North America, please visit: www.intersolar.us. To download the PDF click here.
More information about the products highlighted above can be found at the following locations.
ViZn Energy - http://www.viznenergy.com/
Sonnenbatterie GmbH - http://www.sonnenbattery.com/en/strom-energie-speicher/home/
Solar Census - http://www.solarcensus.com/
Faze-1 - http://www.faze-1.com/
SolarTAC - http://www.solartac.org/
Viasys - http://www.viasys-iv.com/
About the Author
Rod Kirk, a San Francisco Bay area native, has held various Electrical Engineering positions in numerous companies in the areas of data storage, networks, and motion control. He has a degree from San Jose State University and an Energy Management certificate from De Anza College. Rod is currently providing Technical Writing services for cleantech and green companies as well as creating media content for the EcoGreen Group of Silicon Valley.