Energy Storage

Almost everyone wants clean renewable energy to power our future economy. Solar and wind energy are, for most people concerned about the planet's future, our next energy system. But these devices, solar and wind generators are not the solutions by themselves. 

  • To phase out the use of fossil fuels and actually mothball or shut down coal and gas fired power plants, we will need new clean energy storage in addition to renewable generators. 
  • For renewable energy to be competitive with coal, natural gas, nuclear, and oil, it needs to be cost effective and reliable. Energy storage is a key to achieving this. 

The stationary utility energy storage market is very much in its nascent stages. Most industry participants believe that energy storage technologies have a large role to play in the electricity grid of the future. The demand is being driven by several key trends, including the proliferation of intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, the onset of the smart grid concept, and a shift to plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, to name just three.

The global market for utility-scale energy storage could grow 15.8 percent per year to over $10 billion in 2015, according to an SBI Energy report. The storage market has been growing steadily over the years, averaging 10.9 percent annually: from $3.2 billion in 2006 to over $4.8 billion in 2010.

Need for energy storage 

Without a means to store electricity, a number of conditions will remain endemic to the industry: 1) raised volatility, 2) reduced reliability and stability, and 3) threatened security. By utilizing energy storage technologies, each of these challenges facing the industry can be greatly diminished thereby leading to a more efficient market that costs less to operate, that is more responsive to market changes, and that is more reliable in the event of a disruption. 

ES market 

  • There is just 90GW of electricity storage capacity in operation - around 3% of global capacity, which is much lower than in other energy industries
  • As an emerging group of technologies, estimates on the cost of electrical energy storage vary widely, on average by more than 100% and typically much higher in battery technologies
  • Capacitors are the most efficient of the existing electrical energy storage technologies with a round trip efficiency of >95%, while hydrogen storage is, by a large margin, the least efficient technology. 
  • The US and Japan are the global leaders in large scale pumped storage hydropower plants with 9 and 12 plants respectively, compared to just 1 each in the UK, France and Australia
  • Based on an analysis of fixed and variable costs, batteries are currently the most expensive technologies – a key limiting factor compared to more mature alternatives such as pumped storage hydropower

ES market growth

Global energy storage market is poised to grow from $329 million in 2008 to $4.1 billion by 2018, according to a report from Pike Research.

The global market for utility-scale energy storage could grow 15.8 percent per year to over $10 billion in 2015, according to an SBI Energy report. The storage market has been growing steadily over the years, averaging 10.9 percent annually: from $3.2 billion in 2006 to over $4.8 billion in 2010, the SBI said. has seen a 14.4 percent boost per year to reach $0.6 billion during the same period, and its growth is expected to accelerate to a 26.6 percent increase per year to nearly $2 billion in 2015.

ES market for wind power

Market opportunities for energy storage in the wind power business will reach $1.1 billion by 2015, according to industry analyst NanoMarkets (October 2010) Energy storage makes wind-generated energy less dependent on the weather, enabling it to be sold at better prices. Storage also helps optimize the use of scarce grid capacity, improving the opportunity for selling wind generated energy to users in different parts of the country or even different countries.

Types of energy storage 

  • Pumped-storage hydroelectricity
  • Superconducting magnetic energy storage
  • Flow batteries
  • Conventional batteries (e.g. rechargeable electricity storage system)
  • Gas Holder
  • Grid Energy Storage
  • Fuel cell and hydrogen technology
  • Gravitational mass
  • Capacitors (e.g. rechargeable electricity storage system)
  • Electromagnetic Mass
  • Mainspring
  • Thermal energy storage
  • Solar Chimney
  • Compressed fluids (e.g. compressed air)
  • Flywheels
  • Vacuum storage (in rush generation technology)

The greatest potential for growth lies with advanced battery technologies, especially Lithium Ion (Li-ion). Sodium Sulfur (NAS) batteries, Pumped Hydro, and Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) will also be important technologies in the years ahead.

Future of electrical energy storage

Business opportunities will exist for companies that provide goods and services that help electric consumers manage supply, and, now, demand.  It used to be that the timing of electricity consumption never mattered.  Now the timing of consumption matters a great deal. 

These changes open the door for many business opportunities associated with energy storage. 

Thermal energy storage is gaining in popularity because air conditioning is a simple load to shift.  Night time electricity is used to generate and store thermal energy which is used the next day to cool the building during times of high demand, high prices or high cooling loads.  Thermal Energy Storage (TES) is a proven, reliable solution that can help, along with other forms of storage, to solve renewable energy’s lack of storage issues.  Many business opportunities exist for companies in the construction and energy business.


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