Energy Storage Digital: What We Learned at The Online Event, and How You Can Still Join in

on May 26, 2020

Our publisher, Solar Media is currently hosting a season of online conferences, the Digital Series. Topics still to run include Solar & Storage Finance (1-5 June) and Energy Technologies (15-19 June), while last week we saw the Large-Scale Solar series. Our Energy Storage Digital Summit got us off to a low carbon yet globe-spanning start and took place from 11-15 May. From a full week of webinars and panel discussions, there was a huge amount of ground covered. Here are some more of our takeaways and there are links below to some of the news and views we’ve already posted. ​

  1. Developing energy storage projects in the age of COVID-19 amplifies existing challenges
    Erik Stokes, branch chief at the California Energy Commission hosted a panel discussion: “Timeline to building a safe storage project” on the first day. Speaking to three senior team members at developers Soltage and Hecate Energy, and from consultancy Geostrategies, Stokes heard that COVID-19 is unsurprisingly having an impact on project execution.

Brian Schmidly, founder at Geostrategies said that most battery and equipment manufacturers sending products out from Asia are now back online, but that there are likely to be delays and bottlenecks toward the end of this year as everyone plays catch-up. This is perhaps similar to the early days of solar, Schmidly said, when demand outstripped available supply for PV modules.

Hecate Energy general counsel Holly Christie noted that while in the first few weeks of the pandemic, many parties claimed force majeure clauses, since force majeure refers to something unforeseen, after a period, it becomes more difficult to argue that the delays are “now not unforeseen”. Change of law provisions are now “fluid notions that were not necessarily so before”.

Dirk van Ouwerkerk, senior VP of energy storage development at Soltage, said that the pandemic’s effects on supply chains need to be monitored very, very closely, and that there are two types of supply chain issues: “materials getting through to manufacturing, and then getting manufacturing product to the projects”. This includes the “vast majority” of manufacturing for both LFP and NMC battery cells, which is in China.

Van Ouwerkerk said that the delays are not structural in nature. He expected to see three to six months of delays but felt that the delays are “decreasing and probably not there next year”. On a related note, he went on to say that with energy storage still at a relatively early stage of industry maturity, there hasn’t been the same level of standardisation as achieved in solar. Every project is still very different and the cost of capital high. Soltage develops projects, van Ouwerkerk said, there is a constant reassessment of “fatal flaw” analysis.

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