Study: Energy storage to support renewables, boost grid

Mountain View, Calif., January 5, 2012 — Electric energy storage systems are crucial for the further development and transformation of a range of sectors including renewable energy, automotive, grid stabilization, smart grid, back-up power and portable devices.

Big scale, reliable and durable electric energy storage technologies will enhance the usage and commercial attractiveness of intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that electric energy storage systems are inscribed in the development strategies of intermittent renewable energy and electric vehicle developers, grid operators and utility companies.

"The most important drivers for developing electric energy storage systems are grid stability and reliability, mass integration of intermittent renewable energy generators, better use of energy resources, fossil fuels shortage and limiting of greenhouse gases," said Technical Insights Research Analyst Tomasz Kaminski. "Electric energy storage technologies will be an inseparable part of smart grids and distributed energy generating systems in the future."

Among the various electric energy storage systems, advanced batteries are set to attract the greatest interest in the near future. This is because of their flexibility in use, allowing for their employment in grid balancing and connecting intermittent renewable energy generators to the main electric grid.

"Frost & Sullivan research reveals that lithium-ion batteries will play the most important role in the future of electric energy storage systems over the next five to seven years," said Kaminski. "EVs will be a key and sizeable application area for this technology."

Other electric energy storage technologies include flywheels and compressed air energy storage (CAES) systems. Advanced adiabatic CAES systems are anticipated to play an important role in enabling the safe connection of big wind farms to the main electric grid in an economically viable way.

"Nevertheless, all of these systems are still either at the developmental stage (advanced batteries) or are not yet mature," said Kaminski. "Currently, the only available and economically viable storage system is pumped hydro, whose use is significantly limited because of the need for proximity to large water reservoirs."

Before electric energy storage technology can be adopted on a mass scale, certain technical problems need to be resolved. For instance, investors and developers are already focused on developing new chemistry that will optimize battery durability and energy density. This, together with efforts to reduce the time needed for battery recharging, is likely to encourage widespread adoption of battery technology by the automotive and electric grid industries.

Another important problem is the initial cost of storage technologies. Further research and development needs to focus on increasing energy/power density and reducing initial costs through ramped up production. This will render electric energy storage systems more attractive across applications.

"Ultimately, understanding and addressing the different challenges faced in different applications is key," said Kaminski. "This will allow acceleration of the development of electric energy storage systems."

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