Report reveals risk for energy storage technologies in US

A new report shows emerging energy storage technologies in the US may face challenges as utilities stick to tried-and-tested technologies. Photo credit: Discovery Cube OC science centre, site of a Southern California Edison energy storage project using lithium-ion battery technology, Edison International

Emerging energy storage technologies in the US may face challenges as utilities stick to older technologies. Photo: Discovery Cube OC science centre, site of a Southern California Edison energy storage project, Edison International

A new report is expected to show emerging energy storage technologies may face commercialisation challenges as utilities stick to tried-and-tested technologies from reputable vendors.

Early indications are that US power companies are shunning innovative technologies and early-stage developers in favour of tried-and-tested equipment from major suppliers, according to the report from Energy Storage Update.

One source quoted in the report says around 60% of the storage currently being considered for installation across Californian utilities is likely to be in the form of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

The balance will probably be small-scale hydro, natural gas compression, liquid air storage and flywheels.

Another source, from Southern California Edison, indicated that the company’s energy storage testing programme was all using lithium-ion batteries.

Elsewhere, utility respondents also expressed a clear preference for industry-leading suppliers such as Sharp, LG Chem and Panasonic. “Big companies like ours only like to deal with more established companies, with actual balance sheets,” said one.
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California seen as key for energy storage commercialisation

Energy storage in California is projected to drive commercialisation and technology development in the rest of the US. Photo credit: PG&E test battery storage systems, Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Energy storage in California is projected to drive commercialisation and technology development in the rest of the US. Photo credit: PG&E test battery storage systems, Pacific Gas and Electric Company

California is set to become a global powerhouse for energy storage technology commercialisation in the next half decade, a new guide says. ‘Commercializing Energy Storage in the United States’, published by Energy Storage Update, forecasts that California’s unprecedented 1.325GW storage mandate will turn the state into the world’s leading energy storage test bed.“This opportunity is significant because it will force utilities to deploy energy storage technologies at increasing levels between now and 2020,” says the report. “California is effectively set to become a major proving ground, with learning from the market serving to help deploy energy storage at scale elsewhere in the US and worldwide.”

A key finding is that California will not only be able to help with the commercialization of technologies that are already gaining mainstream market acceptance, but also those that are still in the early stages of development.
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Electricity storage guide available

Sandia National Laboratories

Photo credit: Sandia National Laboratories

Sandia National Laboratories has released an updated handbook on energy storage. The book was created in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and was funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.
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Helping people to ditch diesel

The need for off-grid energy storage is being promoted by groups such as the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE). Photo credit: ACCIONA Microenergía Perú

The need for off-grid energy storage is recognised by groups like the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE). Photo credit: ACCIONA Microenergía Perú

Energy storage could help remote communities ditch a nasty diesel habit, according to an article in Scientific American. For isolated communities being off-grid is not a matter of choice, but a fact of life, which means their daily lives are prey to the price of the diesel that feeds their generators.
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Batteries aren’t worth it to store wind

Wind farm

Batteries won’t work for wind. Pic courtesy of Gamesa.

Stanford University scientists have worked out that from an energy point of view it doesn’t make sense to store wind power in batteries. The energy cost of building the batteries is more than the value of the power that would be lost through curtailment.

The researchers compared the finding to the cost of storing cash in a safe, noting that it would not be worth paying USD$100 to store a $10 watch. Since wind power is so cheap, buying batteries to store the excess energy it produces is not worth the effort. This is not the case with photovoltaic energy, which costs more to produce in the first place.

Nor does it apply to other forms of energy storage: storing excess wind power in pumped hydro reserves, for example, is still energetically economical. The authors note that the value of batteries for excess wind energy storage could be improved by increasing their cycle life.

To be worth the investment for wind energy storage, batteries would have to last between 10,000 and 18,000 cycles, they say.

Solar storage market to reach $2.8bn

Corporations in the solar and energy storage sectors have long dreamed of combining the two technologies to differentiate products and defend margins. This match shows promise, yielding a USD$2.8bn market over the next five years, according to Lux Research.

Grid-tied solar installations will comprise 675MW, or nearly 95% of a combined 711MW market, while off-grid applications including telecom power claim the remaining 5%. While the off-grid market enjoys higher profit margins, the much larger addressable market for grid-tied systems means they dominate the solar and energy storage market.

“Developers are pushing packaged solar and storage systems in order to stand out as value-adding leaders, but not all benefit equally,” said Steven Minnihan, Lux Research senior analyst and a co-author of the report.

“Residential energy storage will see a boost in adoption due to solar, but the addition of storage will barely move the needle for solar players, driving a paltry 1% increase in global PV sales.”

China to spend $166bn on energy storage

Wind farm in Xingiang, China.

Wind farm in Xingiang, China. Photo credit: taylorandayumi

Analyst group Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) is predicting China could spend between USD$164bn and $192bn on energy storage between now and 2030. The figures are from a study released this week that considers four possible future energy scenarios for the Asian giant. BNEF’s favoured scenario, dubbed the ‘New Normal’, would see energy storage investments topping $166bn.
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CAES: ‘dramatic growth’ in next decade

According to a new report from Navigant Research, more than 11GW of compressed air energy storage (CAES) capacity will be installed worldwide from 2013 to 2023. Growth in the sector will partly be driven by advances in isothermal, or adiabatic, CAES, which can be sited anywhere and conveniently scaled using modular units, says Navigant.
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