Industry mulls PV storage potential

The fledgling PV storage systems sector is in for considerable growth in coming years thanks to a German government subsidy scheme, but analysts disagree just how fast the sector will be able to take off.

“We’re predicting quite explosive growth in energy storage in conjunction with PV systems to happen over the next five years, yet again led by Germany,” Ash Sharma, director and principal analyst at IHS Solar in the UK, said during a panel discussion at the Intersolar conference in Munich.

“We see in the PV industry that what happens in Germany comes to then trickle to the rest of European markets in terms of policy and lawmaking. Germany is often seen as test case.”

Sharma acknowledged that new subsidies for solar storage recently introduced in Germany are not huge, but nevertheless says they will help to build up volume in the young segment.

Germany, via its KfW development bank, from May 1 onwards gives owners of solar installations up to €660 ($861) per kW capacity for solar storage systems. The programme this year is limited to €25m in support and slated to go up to €50m in subsequent years.

Jenny Case, manager of solar insight at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said her company tried to run the numbers for residential storage systems in Germany with the current subsidy, “and we couldn’t make it work".

She added the market is restricted to rich PV owners at present.

Markus Lohr, a senior analyst at Germany-based EuPD research, thinks the storage market will eventually take off, but it will take time and the development won’t resemble the “crazy” expansion of Germany’s PV module market a couple of years ago.

“I don’t see this huge demand right now. I really see a very, very slow take-off,” Lohr said.

Suppliers of PV storage systems for residential use will actually be pretty disappointed with the market in the first half of this year, he said. Lohr estimates that only some 1,000 storage systems will have been sold to residential customers in Germany in the period, contrasting to a whopping sale of 120,000 PV systems.

“It’s almost nothing,” he said, adding that PV storage will become more interesting as electricity prices go up further.

A series of renewables companies is presenting PV storage systems at the Intersolar trade fair, among them renewables developer Juwi, and PV companies Conergy and SAG Solarstrom.