The hits just keep coming for fossil fuel stakeholders in the United States, and the blows are coming from the direction of energy storage. Lithium-ion batteries are already helping renewables compete against fossil power in some markets, and that’s just for starters. The next generation of energy storage is set to go far and beyond the capabilities of today’s Li-ion technology, as federal energy experts eyeball a goal of 120 gigawatts in storage by 2050.
The advent of low cost energy storage is true gamechanger for renewable energy. About 15 years ago, experts with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory were looking at an ambitious scenario of 20% penetration. Today they’re saying that 80% or more renewable energy is doable, and 100% is conceivable.
That’s going to depend on the next generation of energy storage technology.
Currently, pumped hydro is the only opportunity for bulk storage on the market. Aside from that, lithium-ion batteries still rule the roost.
Earlier this week NREL took a deep dive into the state of battery technology and explained why the energy storage market needs to go above and beyond — and why it will, too.
Lithium-ion batteries are good as far as they go, but the nation’s thirst for seasonal and daytime air conditioning is still driving the market for natural gas “peaker” plants.
For example, a solar-plus-storage setup with Li-ion batteries can push utility costs for commercial buildings down far below grid prices, in some circumstances, but a recent NREL study found no across-the-board cost advantage.
Additionally, the cost advantage only holds during the lithium-ion battery charging cycle of about four hours.
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