Grid Energy Storage: The Bigger Picture

The forecast regarding the sustained viability of grid-scale energy storage in the future and the wide-scale, practical application of grid-scale energy storage technology is optimistic, with a predicted average year-on-year demand growth of 231% from 2012 through 2015. This is despite the forecast

The forecast regarding the sustained viability of grid-scale energy storage in the future and the wide-scale, practical application of grid-scale energy storage technology is optimistic, with a predicted average year-on-year demand growth of 231% from 2012 through 2015. This is despite the forecast being tempered by a cautionary note that demand of that magnitude cannot be satisfied because the grid storage market will face supply-constraint in 2017.

Admittedly, current adoption of grid energy storage technologies is not only expensive; it faces multiple technical hurdles as well. However which of these hurdles will be overcome first? Moreover, what niche applications are currently economically viable, and which ones will become feasible in the future?
Upon the evaluation of various energy storage technologies, a general consensus reached is that in the next five to seven years, lithium-ion batteries will play a central role in the future of electric energy storage systems. However, in light of cost, lithium-ion batteries may lose out to other alternatives such as flow and molten-salt batteries. Cost effectiveness serves to either propel the wide-scale application of a particular energy storage technology or act as a stumbling block that deters widespread adoption of the technology. This seems evident in Lux Research's prediction that cheaper alternatives such as flow and molten-salt batteries may overtake lithium-ion batteries as a preferred energy storage solution, whereby rapidly evolving technologies with equivalent or superior performance metrics and substantially lower costs and higher resource availability will take over the majority of the grid storage market in the coming year.
The delving deeper into the business case according to different applications by comparing different technologies such as Li-ion and Flow Batteries, Flywheel, Hydrogen and Supercapacitors will also be one aspect of this year's Energy Storage Forum to be held on June 12-14 in Rome. The Forum seeks to encourage the achieving of a regulatory framework that will enable a profitable deployment of grid energy storage solutions. The discussion will also involve the close examination and comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of new alternative energy storage technologies.
Apart from economic variables, primary drivers responsible for expanding the reach of grid storage that have been identified include, ‘utility market structure, generation technology compositions, peak power demand, demand growth rate, infrastructure growth rate, penetration and growth rate of intermittent renewable energy sources, grid reliability, [time of use] electricity rates, commercial demand charges, and outage costs.'
Not surprisingly, factors such as grid stability and reliability along with the better use of energy resources, fossil fuels shortage, and limiting of greenhouse gases go hand in hand with the abovementioned variables in determining the widespread adoption of grid energy storage technology. Nonetheless the debate over its business case is certainly still on.
The 5th Energy Storage Forum Europe 2012 will be held in Rome from June 12-14, there will be 40 speakers from 16 countries focusing on the business case for grid storage across different applications.

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