What is the future of energy storage technologies? Only a few years ago, no one believed that batteries cost would be below $1000 per kiloWatt per hour ($/kWh). Today, we are talking about $500 kWh. Although battery technology hasn’t moved as fast as other tech innovations. This simply happened due to demand. In the past, batteries were developed mainly to support the consumer electronics industry. When car companies entered the game with electric and hybrid vehicles, battery developments have accelerated in the past five years.
Superstorm Sandy showed the vulnerability of the U.S. aging energy grid, leaving more than six million people throughout the Northeast without electricity. The flaws in our old power grid and current business models of generation, transmission and distribution, point sorely to the urgent need of revamping the infrastructure. Utility and grid scale energy storage are a major component of the energy grid infrastructure in the U.S. and require sophisticated battery technologies, where system reliability is one issue and energy capacity is another.
At a panel session at the Cleantech Open Global Forum and the 2012 Finalist Awards yesterday, speakers talked about the future of energy storage, technologies and challenges. The Cleantech Open Global Forum was a culmination of the 2012 organization’s Business Competition and Accelerator. Over one hundred cutting edge cleantech startups showcased their products and ideas on the Expo floor.
Panelists included Atul Kapadia – CEO at Envia, Kang Sun – CEO at Amprius, and Ilan Gur -Program Director – Technology to Market DOE ARPA-E, and moderator was Michal Vakrat Wolkin – Chair – Night Rover Technical Committee at NASA.
The panelists discussed the significant development Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) battery technologies have had in the past few years. Li-ion batteries are available today in several different chemistries and are considered the most promising storage technology for the next decade.
Battery life-cycle cost analysis may include capital and operating costs for a set time period (for example: 10-year frame) and may include end-of-life costs, such as the spent capital equipment and the actual disposal. The main cost components of the energy storage system are the storage unit in $/kWh and the power conversion unit in $/kW. Check the “Energy Storage Systems Cost Update” report below. Conducted by Susan Schoenung, Ph.D., the study was prepared for the Department Of Energy (DOE) Energy Storage Systems Program.
How can technologies be rapidly developed to accelerate development of energy storage solutions?
Cost, energy density, life-cycle and safety are key factors in designing battery specs. Application determines which battery solution will be appropriate and can be commercialized. When it comes to electric vehicles, the price of the battery is a significant issue. While President Obama has pushed for electrified transportation in the U.S., electric vehicles (EVs) require sophisticated batteries, presenting great opportunities for innovation. The battery systems that exist today in the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are partially utilized in terms of capacity. These are overly designed to accommodate life-cycle and safety considerations. For example, the Nissan Leaf battery has a theoretical range of 200 miles, however, due to protective systems – the battery is used up to the 100-mile range.
Batteries require advancements in chemistry and progress is dependent on material science innovation. In the several past years we came a long way with Lithium-Ion battery developments. While these are already implemented in mobile and consumer devices and are being experimented in other applications, the big question is whether Li-ion batteries can serve a viable solution in vehicle electrification. The panelists estimated that the Li-ion battery would be the main storage-mode for many applications in the next 10 years. Moving into the future, there will be new materials and new chemical innovations in the space. Today there are more than a dozen competing innovations.
New chemistry and new materials will be investigated and may change the picture. Thus far we have only used a fraction of available materials. Some of the experimentation will lead to commercially viable solutions. Trying and researching various materials in designing specs take time and require long term investment; an aspect that doesn’t necessarily attract venture funding.
Another area of innovation is needed in battery management, where technical issues present many opportunities. Another focus area is market analysis and forecasts of renewable energy, energy storage, and advanced conversion devices. The panelists also noted that we need more study and research of each battery performance, how the chemicals interact, etc.
Demand for EVs is also a concern. Will a more efficient and less-costly battery really going to drive consumption? Some markets move quickly and the best example for battery rapid development and utilization is the mobile devices domain, where adoption has exceeded any forecast.
Developing strategy, future planning and execution of critical renewable energy storage projects in the U.S. is critical in the next few years.
Areas of focus include:
- State and Federal policy for future renewable energy storage programs
- Developing utility scale batteries and effective integration of stored renewable energy onto the grid
- Financing and investment in storage projects
- Leveraging government and local incentives to enable growth opportunities within renewable energy storage markets
- Examining and assessing community/regional electricity storage solutions
- Encouraging and fostering emerging technologies and business models
- And more.
Michal Vakrat Wolkin introduced the Night Rover Challenge, an innovative energy storage competition that was recently awarded a $1.5 million by NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. The Night Rover Challenge sets a foundation for energy storage innovations, where scientists and entrepreneurs have a framework to develop the next leap in energy storage technology. Check more about Night Rover at http://Nightrover.org
In 2009, President Barack Obama announced the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) with initial funding opportunities of a total of $151. The DOE ARPA-E funds high-risk, high-reward research, where potentially disruptive and innovative energy research the industry cannot, or will not, support due to risks. Funded projects involve government labs, private industry, and universities. The initiative aims to phase out programs that do not prove to be as promising as anticipated and enable new energy research that has the capacity to advance industrial innovation.
1. Cleantech Open is an organization that facilitates the growth of the cleantech industry through identifying, funding and mentoring entrepreneurial ideas that focus on today’s most urgent energy, environmental and economic challenges. The organiztion operates in seven U.S. regions and offers a Global Forum, providing a platform for business interaction and visibility.
144 startup companies completed the Cleantech Open U.S. Accelerator program this year. In addition, several hundreds more participated in the Cleantech Open Global Ideas competition in many countries around the world. The Global Forum presented innovative finalists from the various U.S. regions and worldwide.
For more information check http://www.cleantechopen.org
2. The “Energy Storage Systems Cost Update” a 2012 report by Susan Schoenung, Ph.D. Prepared for the Department Of Energy (DOE) Energy Storage Systems Program – http://prod.sandia.gov/techlib/access-control.cgi/2011/112730.pdf