Battery Storage for Homes in Japan

A big energy-related disaster doesn’t just leave horrible marks on people’s lives; it also can propel better and quicker policy and technology adoption. Kyocera on Monday said it plans to start selling a system that pairs solar panels with lithium-ion batteries for the residential market in Japan starting this summer.

The system will include Kyocera’s solar energy equipment, including solar panels, inverter and software to monitor and manage energy use, with lithium-ion storage and inverter from Nichicon Corp. The battery storage, at 7.1 kilowatt hours and weighing about 200 kilograms, will feature lithium-ion cells from Samsung.

Kyocera said it has developed hardware and software to control the charge and discharge of solar electricity and manage that supply and demand for both feeding the solar electricity into the home or the grid.

Kyocera and Nichicon said they are rolling out this new system because of demand for residential backup power supply following the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster nearly a year ago. That disaster also has prompted the Japanese government to promote more renewable energy generation. Last August, it approved a plan to introduce feed-in tariffs for various types of renewable power, though it didn’t plan on deciding what the tariffs will be until this year.

The idea of pairing solar panels – or any source of clean energy – with energy storage for residential use is intriguing because it will help homeowners (or companies that own the systems and collect monthly fees from homeowners) to bank solar electricity and tailor its use. For example, the solar energy can be collected when there is no one at home and released from storage when folks return home from work and start using all sorts of appliances.

And, of course, the battery pack can provide backup power should there be a power outage.

While home energy storage sounds like a good idea, especially when pairing solar and storage, analysts don’t expect it to become widely adopted soon, at least not in the United States. Lithium-ion batteries remain expensive. So without government incentives, residential energy storage isn’t likely to take off quickly.

Could the idea take off sooner in Japan? It’s unclear, though of course Kyocera and other Japanese companies think there is enough market interest to launch products. Japan historically has been ahead of many countries in adopting solar and other clean energy technologies, so it could very well be a test bed for solar-cum-storage pairing.

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