Energy Storage will be a 'Next Big Thing' for Cleantech Investors, Auto Industry and 'Big Grid'

December 08 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2016   Rating: 1


What do CEO's from the Auto and Utility Industries (or 'Big Grid'), Enterpreneurs involved in Solar/Wind production and gadget loving consumers all have in common?  

They need major breakthroughs in energy storage. 

Forget about incremental improvements. We cannot get excited over 'better' batteries.  It's time for a leap in cost and performance.

These industries need fundamental breakthroughs with batteries, hydrogen and capacitors. 

What's going to be the source of innovation?

Nanoscale materials science that transforms low-cost abundant materials into viable platforms for storing electrons and hydrogen.    And Disruptive Business Models that scale technologies, create new growth opportunities, and overcome the resistance of deeply rooted incumbents who see energy storage as a threat to their way of business.

What to watch: Energy Storage solutions for Electric Cars & Utility companies

Electric Vehicles - Batteries, Fuel cells & Capacitors
If we expect to make the combustion engine obsolete, we need to enable fundamental advances in how we store energy.  Batteries are good, but not great.  Automakers need major breakthroughs in hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors.  Asia companies understand this long-term shift and are starting to position themselves as the center of production of advanced energy storage systems.

But what's a more near term opportunity for energy storage companies?  

The world's Electricity Grids.

Energy Storage for a 'Smart Grid'

National energy grids are based on an out-dated engineering and business models that uses one-way flows of energy.  Break that 'stream' of electricity and the end users are left without power.  The industry must add redundancy via local storage.

What else? Wasted money.

Utility companies build large scale plants just to have enough energy 'capacity' for peak demand.   As a result most power plants operate well below the maximum (or even profit breaking) capacity.


Who is betting on utility scale energy storage?

In October, Warren Buffet invested $234 million in China's BYD - a battery and electric car maker.  He made the investment via MidAmerican Energy - his utility company. General Electric continues to invest in promising startup - A123 Systems.  General Motors has formed a partnership with Korea's LG Chem.

There are dozens of energy storage companies trying to break into the utility market.   But first national governments will have to change the regulatory framework to break the monopoly of power generation and distribution.

The most recent announcement? Last week, Washington DC-based GreenSmith Energy Management Systems made headlines around the energy blogosphere with the release of its battery storage system designed to help electric utilities lower the cost of managing their grids and expand the use of renewable resources. 

Likely early adopters?
Renewables like solar and wind find it difficult to sell their power because they cannot provide reliable power unless the wind is blowing and the sun in shining.  Add 'megawatt' storage to a solar or wind farm and you can make them more attractive to utility grids.

Major consumers of electricity like factories, hospitals and computer server farms need 100% 'always on' reliability.  Even a 1% downtime can translate into billions of dollars of lost revenue.  If utilities balk at integrating energy storage into the grid, these power hungry consumers might take matters into their own hands with onsite energy storage and distributed power generation systems. 

Energy storage is a game changer.

The question now is - will batteries be able to make incredible leaps in performance while dropping their costs? 

Or will chemical storage via hydrogen fuel cells, or 'charge' storage via capacitors find an opportunity to disrupt the marketplace?


Green Smith Energy Press Release
Image Credit - GreenSmith Homepage


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