Maui Energy Conference to Explore Battery Storage

February 18, 2016, 12:52 PM HST · Updated February 18, 12:52 PM
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Maui Energy Conference photo.

Maui Energy Conference photo.

The 2016 Maui Energy Conference will be held from March 16 to 18 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

The conference will include discussion about battery storage—the hottest topic in renewable energy. The current issue is figuring out how and where to use batteries in a way that makes economic sense.

While many companies vie to be the first to get their methods and products into use, representatives of the two industry leaders, Tesla Energy from the US and Sonnenbatterie from Germany, will speak at the conference. Greg Callman will speak for Tesla Energy; Boris von Bormann will speak for Sonnen.

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the cost of a battery storage system that could be offset by services provided to the grid. The experts will also discuss community energy storage for customers who already have solar.

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“For me, it feels like we are on the verge of something big here,” said Conference Program Committee Chair Doug McLeod. “The equipment is no longer hypothetical. The manufacturers are ready to sell batteries that are designed to work with solar photovoltaic systems. The utility already has 15 to 20% of its customers with rooftop solar. The question is how it all comes together.”

The global transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy is under way. With the US as a key leader in the use of battery storage, attendees will hear firsthand how the upward trends for renewables are affecting Maui’s economy and about the importance of battery manufacturing and storage.

The conference sessions will also emphasize skills and knowledge in areas that are needed to offer renewable sustainability to businesses and to public and non-profit organizations.

“We are at an unusual moment in time when it comes to solar plus storage economics,” offered Sebastian “Bash” Nola, renewable energy consultant and member of the conference program committee. “The price of these batteries has fallen over the past few years, as has the PV cost, but the price of oil has fallen even faster. Battery plus solar now can produce power at a cost that a few years ago would have saved money for the average utility customer in Hawai‘i. However, all of us in the business are now trying to find places to use batteries that make economic sense at today’s lower utility costs.”

A Maui Economic Development Board press release states that better battery storage is crucial. Sun and wind energy are free, but because they are not constant sources of power, renewable energy is considered variable, affected by location, weather and time of day.

Utilities need to deliver reliable and steady energy by balancing supply and demand, the release continued. At the site of solar PV or wind turbines, batteries can smooth out the variability of flow, store excess energy when demand is low and release it when demand is high.

For households, batteries can store energy for use anytime and provide backup power during blackouts.

For some larger users of electricity, a battery might be able to pay for itself by reducing demand charges, the release said. It can level off a spike in demand by providing some of the power that would have been drawn from the utility.

Also, under the proposed Demand Response Tariff, the utility would pay battery owners for providing services to the grid. In effect, many small power producers working together could become a virtual power plant, replacing some of the capacity of traditional oil-fired power plants.

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the many kinds of batteries available today. Depending on the function the battery serves, there many different requirements for storage capacity, charging and discharging performance, response time, maintenance, safety and cost.

“Here on Maui, Haleakala Solar Inc. has partnered with Sonnen, while Rising Sun Solar has signed up with Tesla Energy,” said Frank De Rego Jr., director of business development projects at Maui Economic Development Board Inc., and member of the conference program committee. “We are grateful to Kyle Datta from Ulupono Initiative for putting together the panel with Tesla, which will consider how storage fits in the broader picture of getting to 100% renewables. We are also grateful that Sonnen has accepted our invitation to speak about doing business in Hawai‘i.”

To register for the 2016 Maui Energy Conference go online.

MAUI NOW STORY LINKS

Third Annual Maui Energy Conference: March 16–18
Registration Opens for Maui Energy Conference

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