Energizing the Industry: The Direction of Energy Storage Technologies
While energy storage has come a long way over the past decade, the technologies behind it are nevertheless constantly evolving to meet ever-increasing power demands. As recently as six years ago, the amount of energy storage installations in the United States was negligible and, all things considered, a niche market. Now, energy storage in the U.S. has exceeded well over 311 MW, and that value is predicted to explode by nearly fourteen times over the next five years.
Given that energy storage continues to cement its foundation within the industry, it’s important to keep up with recent trends that have dictated (and are indicative of) its direction.
- Falling Lithium-Ion costs have heavily impacted the growth of the energy storage market. Since 2013, prices on these batteries have dropped by nearly 73%, and the market as a whole has experienced record-breaking growth as a result of this abundance.
- Utilities have set their sights on energy storage, especially as utility-scale solar facilities have taken off in popularity. As energy storage applications assist in smoothing peak demand curves, provide backup power, and add a necessary layer of grid stability, utilities have wasted no time adopting large-scale storage solutions. PG&E, for instance, had four energy storage projects (2.27 GWh combined) approved, intended to replace three gas-fired power plants.
- As energy storage technologies have garnered attention, so too have safety concerns regarding their implementation. Back in June, an explosion of a battery installed by Arizona Public Service near Phoenix sent a shock wave of concern through the energy industry. While the investigation is still ongoing, the APS battery fire will no doubt serve as a major precedent for energy storage installations, investigations, and regulations.
- New innovations, particularly storage solutions that serve as an alternative for lithium-ion batteries, are receiving considerable attention. Among these are zinc-based technologies, which are more reliable in fire-prone areas where lithium-ion batteries are regarded as risky. Dual solar-inverter-plus-storage products, as well as advances in solar charging, are also expanding their foothold.
- Energy storage has slowly but surely entered the mainstream solar power conversation, no longer limited to storage-specific events such as Energy Storage North America (ESNA). As the appeal of renewable energy sources has increased throughout the years, the niche status of energy storage has all but faded, with local governments and corporations alike calling for new constructions to be integrated with energy storage.
Although it’s impossible to say quite where energy storage technologies will be in the next several years, these factors at least give us a solid idea of where the industry is heading—clearly, toward a future that embraces these storage applications.
Source: POWER Magazine, Top 5 Energy Storage Trends of the Year, October 2019