Energy Storage: Are You Ready?

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Virtually all energy experts recognize the need for cheap and efficient energy storage systems. It has become obvious that solar, wind, or any other form of intermittent power generation cannot serve base load requirements or provide reliable peak shaving without storage, but until very recently, the costs have simply been too high.

For energy managers, the costs are beyond monetary. For many, making a decision to buy a particular type of storage feels very risky. A bad decision could put your job or even your career at risk and it always seems like the odds are against you.

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As with most new technologies, however, new applications increase demand and technology pioneers step up to fill the demand in ways that drive down costs and improve reliability. For example, Elon Musk (Tesla cars) has almost single-handedly driven the cost of Lithium-Ion storage down to a point where it can now reasonably provide electricity at a near-competitive price. Other tech pioneers are adding other new technologies that continue to push prices down and efficiency up.

I recently attended a meeting where a high-level executive at one of the world’s leading Lithium-Iron battery producers suggested that by the end of 2017, prices would drop by another 50%.

What that seems to suggest is that battery prices are now reaching a point where they are economically feasible. Certainly, prices will continue to drop but is it worth waiting? The implementation of a storage strategy today could put you miles ahead of those who continue to wait for prices to hit bottom.

I’m reminded of the development of the computer industry. Prices for memory are much lower today than they were 10, 20 and 30 or more years ago, and they still continue to drop. But try to imagine what we would have missed if we had waited to adopt the technology until prices went down a little more. Not to mention that we wouldn’t be seeing those lower prices if a large number of us hadn’t recognized the value of computers early on and bought one (or more).

The path to mass acceptance of battery/storage technologies will look much the same. The early adopters have already taken most of the big risks and helped drive prices down. So perhaps the time has come for the more risk averse of us to take the leap and start investing in storage technology. In so doing, we will be getting more out of the renewables we’ve already invested in, we will be providing a massive boost to the renewable energy industry, which will accelerate progress for existing and new renewable energy technologies as well. Based on past experience, everything related will only get better and cheaper as we do. Someday soon, I can see a world where energy storage is simply assumed, and those of us who haven’t taken the leap will be the ones at risk. 

 

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