Navigant Research has released a new report stating that between January 2013 and September 2014, 91 new grid-scale energy storage systems were announced or launched. The total capacity for these systems is 362.8 megawatts. Lithium-ion technology is the leader for these storage systems, but flywheels and flow batteries are also emerging as options for storing electricity produced by clean sources.
While 360 MW might not sound like much compared with the amounts of renewable energy that are being generated in places like California, which reached 4.8 GW of utility-scale solar power generation in September of 2014, it should be noted that these storage systems are emerging technologies,, and they need to be supported.
Navigant Research analyst Anissa Dehamna explained, “This is a critical time for the advanced energy storage industry. The market has started moving quickly across a number of technologies, but in order for the industry to continue to scale, more systems integrators are needed.”
A separate Navigant research report found that the market for grid energy storage and support services will grow in the next ten years from $675 million annually to $15.6 billion. That’s an increase of over twenty times in ten years. Investors, take note.
Everyone who follows renewable energy knows that solving the energy storage problem for solar and wind is sort of a holy grail, because once it is resolved, there really isn’t much of an argument against clean energy. Intermittency is an acknowledged barrier to more solar and wind power, but the energy storage trend seems to very gradually moving towards catching up.
There are clean energy storage precedents. Over one hundred years ago, an American engineer named Charles Brush built his own wind turbine and home battery system.
Also, pumped hydroelectric is a form of energy storage, as explained by the USGS:
The reservoir acts much like a battery, storing power in the form of water when demands are low and producing maximum power during daily and seasonal peak periods. An advantage of pumped storage is that hydroelectric generating units are able to start up quickly and make rapid adjustments in output. They operate efficiently when used for one hour or several hours. Because pumped storage reservoirs are relatively small, construction costs are generally low compared with conventional hydropower facilities.
So, energy storage has been around for a long time, meaning that it isn’t weird or impossible, it simply is taking other forms now. The cost of the new ones are also dropping.