A hot topic at Intersolar this week: energy storage

Energy storage companies, like battery makers, and solar firms have been talking about the possible marriage of the two technologies for some time. And the union will likely be a big theme at Intersolar, one of the biggest solar energy trade shows in the U.S. that is taking place in San Francisco this week.
The trade show and conference is expected to attract over 22,000 attendees over the next four days. Aside from the usual deep dive into various types of solar technologies, regional market analyses and project financing models and policies, there will be a series of panel discussions on energy storage technologies and how to pair them with solar energy projects.
Solar panel maker Hanwha SolarOne announced Monday that is has invested $8 million in a B round for Silent Power, an energy storage equipment company in Minnesota. With the investment, Hanwha plans to market a package of its solar panels with Silent Power’s energy storage products for residential and commercial markets. The companies expect to launch their first product by September this year. Silent Power says it can use different types of batteries – from lithium-ion to lead-acid – to build its battery systems.
Energy storage systems are handy because they can serve several purposes, from banking solar power for later use to balancing the supply and demand of an electric grid. That’s the concept, at least. Given energy storage isn’t widely used, energy storage tech companies still need to demonstrate, usually through pilot projects, that their equipment and software can perform as promised over time. Some of the energy storage technologies, such as the use of advanced batteries, also remain too expensive for mass adoption.
Given the high price tag, the conventional belief is that energy storage will take off with larger clean power projects first. Eventually, it will be cheap enough where it will show up at homes that have solar panels on their roofs.
Already, we have seen more co-marketing partnerships between solar and energy storage companies for the residential market over the past year. We wrote about SolarCity’s quiet marketing of solar panels and Tesla Motors’ battery systems to take advantage of an incentive program in California a few months back. Solar panel maker Kyocera is teaming up with Nichicon to roll out a set of solar energy system-cum-battery products for the Japanese market. The Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster from a year ago generated a heightened interest in solar energy and backup power systems.
Energy storage won’t be the only key theme at Intersolar, which showcases manufacturers of a variety of solar energy equipment. Solar manufacturers have been experiencing tough times since early 2011, when an oversupply of solar panels began to cause their prices to crash. What will it take to get through this period, which isn’t ending as quickly as many companies had anticipated? That will be the underlying theme for many of the discussions.
To underscore the impact of this gross imbalance of oversupply and demand, we are updating our list of solar companies that have filed for bankruptcy since 2011:

Company HQ Primary business Date
Solyndra U.S. Solar panel maker August 2011
Evergreen Solar U.S. Solar panel maker August 2011
SpectraWatt U.S. Solar panel maker who sold all of its equipment for $4.9 million to Canadian Solar September 2011
Stirling Energy Systems U.S. Equipment and project developer September 2011
Photowatt France Solar panel maker (sold to EDF) November 2011
Solon Germany Solar panel maker, project developer (assets sold to Microsol) December 2011
BP Solar* U.K. *The energy giant didn’t file for bankruptcy but is winding down its solar business (equipment and installation). December 2011
Energy Conversion Devices U.S. Solar panel maker February 2012
SunConcept Germany Project developer February 2012
Ralos New Energies Germany Project developer February 2012
Scheuten Solar Netherlands Solar panel maker (its German subsidiary filed for bankruptcy); assets to be sold to Sunway February 2012
Solarhybrid Germany Project developer March 2012
Odersun Germany Solar panel maker March 2012
Q-Cells Germany Solar panel maker, project developer April 2012
Solar Trust of America U.S. Project developer (part of Solar Millennium) April 2012
Soltecture Germany Solar panel maker May 2012
Sovello Germany Solar panel maker May 2012
Konarka Technologies U.S. Solar panel maker June 2012
NovaSolar U.S. Solar panel maker June 2012
Global Solar U.S. Solar panel maker (its Germany subsidiary filed for bankruptcy June 2012
Abound Solar U.S. Solar panel maker July 2012