Summary:

The market for solar panels might be booming in the U.S., but it’s still early days for matching battery systems with solar panel installations. But that’s not stopping battery maker Saft from looking to make batteries a natural extension of a solar panel system.

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The market for solar panels might be booming in the U.S., but it’s still early days for matching battery systems with solar panel installations. But that’s not stopping battery maker Saft — and a whole host of other companies like Tesla and SolarCity — from looking to make batteries a natural extension of a solar panel system.

Saft sells lithium ion batteries for small home rooftop solar systems that connect to the grid, as well as for large utility-scale solar systems in remote regions, and completely off-grid buildings. For small systems, a battery with a 2 kWh capacity goes right on the roof. For larger solar systems, Saft sells a containerized battery product complete with batteries, power management, air conditioning, and a control system. The off-grid batteries are tweaked slightly so that they can be connected to a diesel generator and not the grid.

Energy storage will be needed as more clean power is added to the grid, because solar is intermittent, meaning it’s only available at certain times of the day (and only in the day). That makes its generation load spiky, and harder for utilities to integrate on the grid and manage. If solar panel systems are paired with batteries they can store some of that energy right at the source.

The cost of these battery systems is the real barrier to getting them adopted more widely. Though companies like Tesla and SolarCity are looking at ways to use rebates and incentives in California to get the costs of the systems down for consumers.

Battery makers and solar panel companies are routinely teaming up. Saft is working with solar building company Schüco to sell its batteries along with solar panels, and those will be available this Summer. The batteries come in two sizes: 4 kWh and 8 kWh.

These battery systems will also need a significant amount of software to run properly and to connect with the grid in the most efficient way possible. A company named GELI makes such battery control and monitoring analytics.

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