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Affordable, modular & distributable:
Energy Storage comes of age

by Zachary Shahan

Low-cost energy storage, the holy grail of the clean energy economy, is about to arrive.


The largest supply chain in the world delivers electricity
Our global civilization has a worldwide storage capacity of 45 days for oil use, but only 33 minutes for electricity--a 2000-fold difference. One of the consequences of this absurdity is that low-cost energy storage is the holy grail of a clean energy economy. Although we can get to high penetrations of renewable energy with relatively little energy storage, low-cost energy storage would not only be a big help for the energy system across the board, it would be a breakthrough that fully empowers intermittent power sources like Wind & Solar.

The U.S. has an extremely small amount of energy storage on the grid. With regards to battery storage specifically, the CEO of one large Florida utility noted a couple years ago that, “if you took all the battery storage in the world, it could only produce the energy requirements of the world for labout 10 minutes.” This results in wasted electricity generation at times of low demand, and very high prices at times of peak demand, when all of a sudden ‘peaker’ power plants have to be turned on (except in Germany with its high solar energy generation). It’s also the reason why so many backup power plants have to be in place, for both renewable and non-renewable resources.

It’s clear from watching the situation in Germany that, as solar power capacity grows, it won’t be too long before more electricity will be generated in the middle of the day than is needed on the surrounding grid. The same goes for wind power at night. A lot of wind power production has driven wholesale electricity prices below $0.00 in Texas, Germany and Europe as a whole. So, energy storage becomes increasingly valuable.

It is well understood across the industry now that wind and solar power are the future, and that energy storage costs are projected to drop if only due to simple economies of scale). It is projected that the energy storage market will grow considerably in the coming years.


The Aurora battery

One energy storage company, Eos, claims that its technology comes at a very, very low price. Their Aurora battery is projected to cost $160/kWh. The cycle life is 10,000 full cycles (a 30-year life). And the storage system has a 75% round-trip efficiency. As such, the levelized cost of electricity or LCOE is very competitive.

Several of the world’s largest utilities, competitive energy providers and IPPs have committed to piloting Eos’s grid-scale battery storage technology and are closely  involved in its product development and demonstration process. Collectively known as the Genesis program, these partners represent over 300 gigawatts of electricity generation, 1.6 million miles of transmission and distribution, and 76 million customers in over 70 countries – creating an unprecedented platform for introduction and widespread implementation of the technology.

Partners in Eos’s Genesis program include Enel (Italy’s largest utility with a 30 GW renewable IPP arm operating in the U.S. and internationally), National Grid (both the U.K. transmission operator and the U.S. utility), GDF Suez (the world’s largest IPP), and the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM). These partnerships follow previous announcement of Eos’s first pilot project with Con Edison of New York and the announcement of financial investment made on behalf of NRG Energy, the largest competitive energy provider in the U.S.

These partnerships obviously validate Eos’s battery storage technology and market strategy, but they also indicate that grid-scale energy storage is quickly moving from a niche technology to widespread adoption in the utility sector.

“Being the world’s leading supplier of energy and environmental efficiency services, and with 116 GW of installed generation capacity spanning more than 70 countries, GDF SUEZ is convinced of the growing need for energy storage worldwide,” “We look forward to exploring how energy storage can be monetized across a variety of market and regulatory structures.”
- Léon Duvivier, VP Technology, Research & Innovation, GDF SUEZ

“Eos is focused on producing a reliable 25-year battery that can integrate into the utility grid at a price equivalent to a combustion gas turbine. If they can do that, Eos will be in a position to change the way utilities do business.” 
- Ron Talbot, COO, PNM

Eos prices in context

The price of lithium-ion batteries is around $400/kWh; $250/kWh at the very lowest. Power Engineering quotes battery prices today as between $400 and $1000 per kWh. The Eos Aurora'price for electicity, $160/kWh, is a very big change.

Why is this such a big deal?
If what Eos say is true, it’s the missing piece of the renewable energy puzzle: affordable, distributable storage. It gets us away from ‘big project’ storage such as pump-up and CAES, which take years to build, and creates a solution which can be pumped out of factories close to the point of use. It can be plopped down in low cost real estate, and plugged into the grid. It's modular storage.

We’ll see what comes of the Genesis program. We’ll see if $160/kWh is the price after all. Does Eos really have what it takes to conquer the world of energy?. The simple fact that it has so many big key companies partnering with it is something worth paying attention to.

◊ Zachary Shahan is the Director of the excellent CleanTechnica.
   Check out the Eos website.  This article publ. here 25.7.2013.




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