Cheaper Energy Storage Systems = More Renewable Energy

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Stuffed into the envelope with the electricity bill is sometimes a little pamphlet telling you where that energy comes from. Sometimes, it’s pretty detailed; other times, not so much. But the percentage of energy coming from renewable sources often isn’t that high, and part of the reason for that is that renewable energy is generated in bursts and is then hard to store.

Energy storage on a large scale would help even out the intermittent nature of renewable energy; in fact, techniques such as batteries and fuel cells are used on smaller scales right now to manage grids with high percentages of renewable sources. The problem with wide-scale use is that energy storage systems are not cheap.

The Falling Cost of Technology

While energy storage tech is expensive now, any consumer will note that the price of technology (whether that’s computers, smartphones, or whatever) starts out high and then drops over time. The analyst firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predicts the same thing will happen with energy storage tech. In fact, BNEF predicts that grid-scale lithium-ion battery prices will fall from today’s $1,000/kWh to $600/kWh by 2015.

According to the report, the lower prices of energy storage systems mean that it would be economically feasible to harvest energy when production is high and use it when demand is high. Hydro and flywheel energy storage systems are also supposed to get cheaper, the report says, becoming viable for widespread use by 2020.

But Here Comes the Red Tape

As with any new type of system, the appropriate rules have to be put into place to govern fair use. Government policy will need to be changed to allow storage and sale of the stored electricity, according to BNEF. The report goes on to say that such changes will be necessary to help consumers avoid buying power when it’s most expensive (although I don’t foresee this one actually happening, not while there’s more money to be made).

Shu Sun, energy storage analyst at BNEF, spoke briefly about hopes and expectations for a new grid system, as reported by Business Green:

“The prize may be within sight, but there are obstacles that need to be cleared… For widespread adoption of storage… appropriate mechanisms need to be built into RIIO (revenue equals incentives plus innovation and outputs), the new regulatory model that aims to promote innovation and the use of new technologies within the … power networks.”

Questions? Comments? Let us know below.

Source: Business Green | Image: Wikimedia Commons

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