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Without batteries like Tesla's, the power grid could eventually break

Lucas Mearian | April 29, 2015
Backflow from distributed power systems is challenging an antiquated power grid.

GTM Research estimates that the U.S. market for energy storage management systems will grow tenfold through 2019, creating a significant opportunity for players in the space.

By 2019, the renewable energy market will be worth $1.5 billion, about 11 times as much as in 2014, according to a March report from GTM Research.

Market research firm Technavio, released a report this week stating that the thermal energy storage market is expected to grow 18.7% every year over the next four years. By 2019, it expects the energy storage market, lead by the U.S. and Spain, to reach $1.3 billion.

Enphase's lithium-ion battery, which will be produced by Japanese-based ELIIY Power, is expected to be available in the second half of this year. The batteries will be roughly one cubic foot in size and offer 1.2 kilowatts hours of power (kWh). In contrast, reports peg Tesla's consumer-grade batteries at 10kWh of capacity with up to 200kWh for utility-grade models.

Enphase has made its bones in the solar power market by selling microinverters. The company has shipped 7.2 million microconverters that are installed alongside photovoltaic systems. Microconverters, like inverters, are used to change direct current (DC) from solar panels to safer alternating current (DC) used by household and business systems.

And, while the focus lately has been on the battery technology, power management is as key to any distributed renewable energy system as anything else, according to Greg Wolfson, senior director of Enphase's storage product line.

As power is produced by rooftop solar panels, it must be balanced with power coming in from the utility grid. Along with a battery and an inverter, battery systems will include hardware appliances running sophisticated power monitoring and management software.

"It's a system approach," Wolfson said. Enphase plans to sell its batteries as part of a modular system that can expand as needs grow. For example, a home could start with one battery, and expand to two, three, even five batteries over time.

"As a home add more photovoltaics, utility rates increase or the homeowner adds a hot tub, they can increase the number of batteries," Wolfson said.


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