Energy storage involves the absorbing and releasing of power so that it can be used as and when needed. Currently, the main forms of energy storage include lithium-ion, lead-acid,molten-salt batteries, and flow cells. There are many benefits to using energy storage including it smoothes the flow of power, it can be used as a backup service, it can absorb power that exceeds demand, and it can help smooth out costs by saving energy when costs are high.
For many people, energy storage is the missing link between 100 percent reliability and the intermittent services provided by the wind or solar power. It has the ability to cope with times of high demand as a backup for the grid and major industrial firms see it as a technology that can transform cars, turbines and other consumer electronics. There are of course pessimists, as with every great invention. These tend to believe that energy storage will not be economical anytime soon, and there may be some truth in that. In 2015, there were a record 221 megawatts of storage capacity installed in the U.S., but for a country who has a generation capacity of more than a million megawatts, it simply a drop in the ocean.
But, costs are falling and could be as low as $200 per kilowatt-hour by 2020, which around half of what it is today. And, if certain techniques are employed, we could find ourselves having a global storage capacity of around 1,000 gigawatts within the next 20 years. One way energy storage can be increased is by looking at how electricity is used, its costs, and the cost of storing it. This will enable companies to identify the exact size and type of energy storage needed to meet its goals.
There are four applications to consider when thinking about profitable energy storage solutions. They are demand charge management, grid-scale renewable power, small-scale solar-plus-storage and frequency regulation. By not using power during peak times, customers will avoid paying the demand charge. Energy storage could lower the peak consumption and drive down demand charges for customers. Grid-scale renewable power will help smooth out the wind and solar farm output. Small-scale solar-plus-storage can help in times of excess production where it can be stored for later use and frequency regulation will allow the ability to cope with high demands of power at once due to its rapid response time and ability to charge and discharge efficiently.
The development of lithium-ion batteries over the past few years has come along significantly and will continue to play a huge part in this field. In 2015, lithium-ion technologies accounted for over 95 percent of new energy-storage developments. Prices will continue to fall making large-scale operations more viable. But, lithium-ion batteries will not always be the best option. Certain lead-acid products are more suitable when it comes to demand charge management and residential solar-plus-storage, and flow cells are more economical than all batteries, but only for longer periods of more than one hour.
Energy storage is the way to go for certain applications, but more information needs to be provided to seek which customers are likely to profit from it. Also, storage providers will need to ensure the best strategy is employed to remain the most profitable for them. A strategy that is filled with several advanced technologies may be a great solution, but will it be an efficient one? The large-scale deployment of energy storage does have the potential to overturn business for many electricity markets, and could be coming sooner than we realized.
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