DOE funds 19 next-gen battery projects with $43M

The U.S. government continues to give small grants to early stage next-generation battery technology in an effort to boost innovation in the U.S., and provide energy storage for electric cars and the power grid.

Today in Cleantech

What’s the future market for grid-scale energy storage? Not nearly as big as previously assumed, according to Pike Research. The research firm has adjusted its expectations for the market for grid-scale batteries, flywheels, air and hydro storage reservoirs and other energy (and power) storage technologies from a previous estimate of $35 billion by 2020 down to $22 billion over the next decade. At the heart of the reduced estimate are some updated figures from the utility-backed research group, the Electric Power Research Institute, that lay out a pretty tough and complicated path forward for energy storage technologies seeking to justify the cost of their investment with today’s grid economics. That’s too bad, because the grid could really use the backup storage capacity to help manage the flood of on-again, off-again power that wind farms and solar power plants will be providing to it in ever-increasing amounts over the next decade. Pike predicts that nearly half of the growth to come in grid energy storage will be to help manage those intermittent power generation resources. Interestingly, Pike has named flow batteries — energy storage systems that share some characteristics with fuel cells, in that they use a pumped electrolyte material to recharge — along with pumped hydro systems as the two top contenders for major growth in grid energy storage over the next decade.

Today in Cleantech

It’s Friday, and that means it’s time to kick back with some weekend reading — in this case, the latest grid energy storage white paper from the Electric Power Research Institute. EPRI’s new report (available for download here) goes deep into the nitty-gritty of different storage technologies, different energy and power applications, and different price points in terms of dollars per kilowatt-hour of storage. The take-away finding is that the U.S. energy storage market could grow to as much as 14 gigawatts of capacity, if energy storage systems can be installed for $700 to $750/kW-h and “the energy storage owners and operators could monetize the estimated benefits.” That last part is critical when it comes to bringing batteries into the mainstream for grid storage. Some energy storage projects can balance out at today’s high costs per kilowatt-hour, as VPs from lithium-ion battery company A123 and energy company AES noted at last week’s Green:Net conference. But building beyond these niche applications will require a whole host of technical, economic and policy issues to be aligned to allow batteries that can, for example, provide high-value grid-balancing services as well as longer-term load-shifting capabilities — and capture the revenue streams from both to make the projects pencil out.