Battery and Storage Sectors Keep Pace with Energy Decentralization

by | Jan 20, 2016

batteriesThe decentralized generation of energy is a great thing. Bringing generation into the network, however, is not easy. It has many technical ramifications and complications. It also is costly.

One of the most important issues is the nature of the batteries and related systems that store the energy that is being produced. It obviously is an area of great interest to vendors. Their research and development arms are busy and deals are being made. That all is good news to facility managers and owners.

GTM Research suggests that storage costs will continue declining. Analyst Luis Ortiz posted a blog at the analysts’ site that suggested the balance of system (BOS) costs have been shrinking, but at a slower rate than previously on a dollar-per-kilowatt basis. However, he thinks that the overall declines will continue:

GTM Research predicts that the next five years should see a 40% decline in storage BOS costs to values lower than $400/kW. During this time, the price difference between storage and PV inverters should also compress.

The growth is worldwide. Forbes reports yesterday on research by IHS Technology that estimated the fourth quarter, 2015 “pipeline of planned battery and flywheel projects” at 1.6 GW, a 45 percent increase over the third quarter. Commentary in the story cited cost reduction, government funding support and utility support. The analysts forecast that the installed capacity of energy storage systems will double by next year. The lion’s share – 45 percent – of the projects deployed this year will be in the United States. Japan is second at 20 percent.

Electric vehicles as well as photo voltaic technology is driving research. The bottom line is that the evolution in battery science is moving along – and innovative and increasingly capable products are emerging. Some news has been made on this front during the past several weeks.

  • EnSync said yesterday that its energy management system, integrated with photo voltaics and Aquion Energy’s Aqueous Hybrid Ion batteries, have been powering an agricultural installation at Mari’s Garden in Mililani, HI. The system drives the water pumps for the hydroponics and aquaponics for the facility’s fishery. The mission-critical task has been ongoing on a 24/7 basis for more than four months, according to EnSync.
  • Yesterday, ViZn Energy announced that it is deploying its system for Idaho National Labs. The release says that the company’s large-scale zinc-iron redox flow battery system will be deployed this year. It is a 128 KW/320 kWh system. The system, according to the press release, uses alkaline chemistry that is non-toxic and non-flammable. The materials in the battery are plentiful, which reduces costs.
  • Last week, The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) awarded Eos Energy $750,000 to produce, install and demonstrate a 250 kW, 1,000 kWh battery storage system in Wappingers Falls, NY. The story at Utility Dive, which used reporting from Microgrid Knowledge, says that it can produce its Aurora zinc hybrid cathode batteries for between $91 and $116 per kWh at commercial volumes of 100 MW per year.

Lots of work remains. “There are still multiple challenges to address with microgrids, including energy storage integration, controls development, battery/storage use-case development and corresponding testing, standards and testing development for grid-scale batteries, controls and devices/systems interaction testing, economics and business case improvements, etc.” Kurt Myers, an Idaho National Labs electrical engineer and microgrid project manager told Energy Manager Today. “However, energy storage implementation, life cycle performance and economics improvements are a definitely high priorities for microgrids and island grid improvements. Technical performance characteristics for particular applications, optimal integration of different types of energy storage technologies, and improvements through economies of scale and design/materials/components choices are all of high interest.”

There also are problems that occur because of the quick progress. The fast evolution of microgrids and the energy storage systems upon which they rely is causing some concern. Microgrid Knowledge posted a story this week that raises questions about the safety of the batteries.

The piece says that The National Fire Protection Association is researching ways in which to teach firefighters about house these systems. The crux of the matter is that the fast adoption of these systems is outpacing creation of safety standards. The focus on the story is on residential implementations. However, the same questions almost certainly apply to commercial systems.

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