Solar distributed power storage new business developments

With the new innovations and technological advances in solar renewable energy and new distributed power storage systems in recent years, there have been many interesting new developments in distributed solar storage systems and businesses globally.

A good new business example is that GE and BlackRock have launched their new distributed solar and storage business globally. With BlackRock as a partner and with a new focus on project ownership, GE and BlackRock are aspiring to further grow their solar power storage business in future. Over the past four years, a small business unit of GE has been building a growing business

Solar renewable energy growth management 51 around developing distributed solar and solar-plus-storage projects. GE recently announced that it will be growing this business via a partnership and majority investment by the asset management firm, BlackRock Real Assets (WoodMac GTM, GE and BlackRock Launch Distributed Solar and Storage Business, 2019).

BlackRock Real Assets has been primarily investing in utility-scale renewables globally. It has invested some $5 billion in over 250 wind and solar projects with a total generation capacity of over 5.2 gigawatts. As part of its new investment strategy, it has been making strategic moves into the distributed-scale solar project sector in 2019. A good example is its recent investment into the small-scale solar project owner CleanCapital in April 2019.

GE has been having a bumpy journey in its solar renewable energy and power storage businesses. GE initially set up its PrimcStar thin-film solar PV manufacturing business but it later decided to abandon the field by selling it to First Solar. GE then established a new start-up on distributed solar and storage solutions in 2012. It is also still making solar inverters, switchgear and other solar-related equipment. It is also heavily involved in financing and investing in large-scale wind power projects. GE is also amongst the world’s leading suppliers of onshore wind turbines and has big ambitions for the offshore wind market. In 2018, GE’s energy storage business was transferred to GE Power, whilst the company underwent a broader restructuring that led to the formation of GE Renewable Energy as a standalone business unit based in Paris. The Renewable business unit included all of GE’s renewable energy and grid assets, including solar, storage, wind and hydropower. Solar revenue is still only accounting for a tiny fraction of GE’s overall renewable business. Onshore wind revenue has been accounting for nearly 90% of revenues of the GE Renewable Energy segment in 2018. Hydropower revenue has been accounting for most of the rest of renewable business incomes.

The new joint GE BlackRock company will be called Distributed Solar Development (DSD). It will be owned 20% by GE Renewable Energy and 80% by BlackRock. The business will focus on a broad range of customers from the commercial, industrial and public sectors. The new investments will allow the new company to expand its current project development work and also own some of the projects that it has been developing.

Distributed Solar Development has developed about 125 projects in 15 states in the USA. It has been working with a variety of solar PV system providers and a set of regional electrical contractors. It has specialised in carport solar PV systems for both carports and on top of a parking deck. About two-thirds of its projects are behind-the-meter. It has also developed rooftop and greenfield projects, as well as front-of-meter, distribution-grid-connected systems.

Battery storage systems are currently making up a small portion of the new company’s projects. However, it has been found that a majority of their US West Coast customers and projects have normally included power storage as part of the project scope. These are in line with the boarder growing trends for solar renewable power in these markets.

The US commercial solar market has contracted in 2018 and 2019. It has been largely due to rising market saturation. In addition, the changes to less favourable rate structures and incentive programmes in key states have created additional challenges and hurdles. These US states included California, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. However, recent market research has shown that solar distribute power storage developer-owners have been capturing an increasing share of the more challenging market, compared to those developers who have limited their involvement to just acquiring projects. In addition, third-party financed projects have grown from about a third of projects in 2015 to more than half of all projects as of last year.

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