With solar and wind energies reaching the tipping point across the world, the next big source of innovation is storing the energy that these intermittent technologies produce. Once energy can be affordably stored in large amounts, there is no stopping the renewable energy revolution. To give you an idea of how quickly this new industry is growing, revenue is expected to jump from $605 million a year now to over $21 billion by 2024 worldwide, according to Navigant Research. In fact, utilities could lose 50% of residential sales and 60% of commercial sales in the U.S. Northeast by 2030, says the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Why? Because solar-plus batteries will offer a less expensive option than the high electricity prices utilities demand in these states. California and Hawaii also have high electric rates and both are leaders on renewable energy.
This year, California raised its goal to 50% renewable energy by 2030 and Hawaii became the first state to mandate 100% renewable energy with a target date of 2045. Both are counting on energy storage to get there. There is also huge interest in using energy storage for backup, to keep electricity flowing during grid outages. Germany offers subsidies for systems that combine solar with energy storage, and California requires it with major solar projects.
Numerous U.S. research programs support innovation in the field such as the Department of Energy’s Batteries and Energy Storage Hub; NY-BEST, which provides a research space for entrepreneurs; Milwaukee's Energy Innovation Center for research on distributed energy; and Hawaii’s test bed for energy storage technologies at the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology (HOST) Park. San Jose State University has even opened a Battery University. Nasdaq’s Green Economy Index has a separate category for energy storage companies. Leaders on Energy Storage You may have heard that Elon Musk, CEO of electric car manufacturer Tesla, launched Tesla Energy in May. Out of the gate, the company offers the first affordable batteries for homes, businesses, industry and utilities, and sold out through mid-2016 within a week.
They have 38,000 reservations for Powerwall — the residential battery — and since most people ordered more than one, the sales add up to 50,000-60,000.
They received 2500 reservations for the much more powerful industrial/ utility version, called Powerpacks, and since customers ordered about 10 Powerpacks each, the total is 25,000. But many companies are getting into the energy storage space, from Samsung to Panasonic. SunEdison, the world's top renewable energy developer, acquired a company called Solar Grid Storage this year — which has a 100 megawatt pipeline — to offer a complete solution that combines solar, wind and energy storage.
Alevo Energy opened a 3.5 million square-foot factory in North Carolina last year to make grid-scale energy storage products, and expects to employ 2500 people within three years. Its "GridBanks" are shipping containers filled with thousands of lithium batteries that draw excess energy from power plants, store it and release it as needed.
Photo Credit: Alevo.com
“I think in the near future, having a battery in your home will be as normal as having a water heater or a dishwasher. This takes us one step closer to being able to power homes completely without the use of fossil fuels,” says Jason Ballard, President of TreeHouse, which sells Tesla’s Powerwall.
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Rona Fried, Ph.D. is CEO of SustainableBusiness.com, providing daily green business news and a national green jobs service since 1996. She is a consultant for the NASDAQ OMX Green Economy Index.