Solar energy storage working for California community

One of the biggest debates in the solar energy industry is about how to get the optimum amount of power during the optimum hours of the day. The obvious answer is to store the energy. While it sounds a lot simpler than it really is, one battery company has found an effective way to do it.

Saft Lithium-Ion battery technology is being used in a 34-home development under construction now in Sacramento, Calif.

Saft partnered with newly emerging Sunverge for this project and expects to do more like it.

But even before this partnership, Saft has been developing batteries specifically for solar-energy storage.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District commissioned Saft in 2010 to conduct an experiment using 15 homes in a community to see if storing energy generated from rooftop solar arrays could help the utility offset its peak demand between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., according to a press release.

This 2500 R Street residential development is an expansion of that idea, said Blake Frye, vice president of sales, energy storage for Saft America. The homes are built to the highest energy-efficiency standard and equipped with solar arrays and Saft batteries that make them all net-zero.

“We’re excited about this development with Sunverge,” Frye said. “The energy storage market needs these types of features.”

He said Saft has been working to develop this energy storage technology for several years.

The company, which is international, with offices in the United States, has been in the battery business for 90 years and has generally focused on large-scale commercial uses for heavy-duty batteries, Frye said.

“You won’t find us in small consumer products,” he said. “But if you’ve been on an airplane, you were probably surrounded by Saft batteries.”

The company has been working with utility companies on creating large-scale energy storage banks of batteries for utility companies and installed one of the largest near Fairbanks, Alaska, Frye said.

Scaling down the technology means increased efficiency for home solar generators and more useable power for utility companies, Frye said.

Ken Munson, the co-founder and president of partner company Sunverge, said the project will appeal to utility companies because they will be able to draw power from grid-tied residences generating solar power when they need it most and dispatch it to where it’s most needed.

“We’ve been doing this for a little bit now,” Frye said of developing high-tech energy storage systems, “And we think we see very strong value in what we’re doing with Sunverge.”

Image courtesy of Saft.