A growing number of homeowners in Germany are installing batteries to store solar power. As prices for energy storage systems drop, they are adopting a green vision: a solar panel on every roof, an EV in every garage, and a battery in every basement.
A photovoltaic system on a single-family house in Germany. ENERIX
Stefan Paris is a 55-year-old radiologist living in Berlin’s outer suburbs. He, his partner, and their three-year-old daughter share a snug, two-story house with a pool. The Parises, who are expecting a second child, are neither wealthy nor environmental firebrands. Yet the couple opted to spend $36,000 for a home solar system consisting of 26 solar panels, freshly installed on the roof this month, and a smart battery — about the size of a small refrigerator — parked in the cellar.
On sunny days, the photovoltaic panels supply all of the Paris household’s electricity needs and charge their hybrid car’s electric battery, too. Once these basics are covered, the rooftop-generated power feeds into the stationary battery until it’s full — primed for nighttime energy demand and cloudy days. Then, when the battery is topped off, the unit’s digital control system automatically redirects any excess energy into Berlin’s power grid, for which the Parises will be compensated by the local grid operator.
“They convinced me it would pay off in ten years,” explains Paris, referring to Enerix, a Bavaria-based retailer offering solar systems and installation services. “After that, most of our electricity won’t cost us anything.” The investment, he says, is a hedge against rising energy costs. Moreover, the unit’s smart software enables the Parises to monitor the production, consumption, and storage of electricity, as well as track in real time the feed-in of power to the grid. MORE
Insufficient battery technology is the greatest impediment to a clean energy present and future.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (L) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) (R) hug each other as other Congressional Democrats look on during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Sen. Markey and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez held a news conference to unveil their Green New Deal resolution. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)GETTY
We cannot end carbon emissions from power plants until we find a way to efficiently and safely store large amounts of power. We need to master the ability to quickly charge batteries without destroying their lifespans before electric vehicles take over. To truly make a difference, we need to make the creation and disposal of batteries less harmful to the environment and less reliant on mining in countries with exploitative labor practices. We need to find a way to store massive amounts of solar and wind power to be distributed upon demand to make renewable energies viable as baseload producers on the grid.
The battery revolution that we need will be a major technological breakthrough. There was once a time when such major innovations were wholly the work of private industrious inventors, but maybe that time has passed. The wheel, the printing press and the airplane were all invented by people, not corporations. In the twentieth century, governments and large institutions became more involved in grand advances in technology because of the expense and scale. The government led the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. The space race was a match between the Soviet Union and the U.S. governments and led to dozens of essential new technologies. The government was also instrumental in the development of the internet. Perhaps government funding and support is needed to push the battery revolution. MORE
Just a few days after Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) posted its second consecutive profitable quarter, the company has stated that it plans to acquire energy technology firm Maxwell Technologies, a California-based maker of ultracapacitors and batteries.
“We are always looking for potential acquisitions that make sense for the business and support Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
Maxwell Technologies specializes in the development of ultracapacitors. Prior to its acquisition by Tesla, Maxwell had been working on developing dry electrode technologies that could be utilized to create ultracapacitors that can store large amounts of electrical charge without losing energy — a breakthrough for electric cars and energy storage devices. Ultracapacitors are lauded by several industry watchers as a possible alternative to today’s batteries, considering their potential to be safer and more reliable technologies.