Energy Storage's Quiet Revolution  

Posted by Big Gav in

Renewable Energy World has a look at developments in the world of energy storage - Energy Storage's Quiet Revolution.

When A123Systems saw its shares jump more than 50 percent in a successful Nasdaq debut back in September, some industry insiders expected it would be the first of a bevy of big energy-storage headlines. Instead, energy storage seems to have fallen out of the limelight, getting nothing near as much hype as Bloom Energy, a fuel-cell company focused on electricity generation instead of energy storage, generated when it launched last month.

But a series of recent small announcements suggest that energy-storage technologies are quietly making progress toward commercialization nonetheless. "There seems to be a lot more buzz in the last few months, and what's interesting is it's not all on the automotive side," said Sara Bradford, a principal consultant for global research firm Frost & Sullivan. While automobiles remain a key area for new energy-storage technologies, she's seeing a "spillover effect" as research and investment spreads into other areas, including grid applications for utilities and nonautomotive transportation.

Some examples? In February, Valence Technology signed a $45 million deal to supply its lithium-ion battery systems for a new line of hybrid-electric yachts, sailboats and motorboats from Beneteau Group. And International Battery, another lithium-ion rechargeable battery manufacturer, announced it was selected to supply battery systems for an American Electric Power smart-grid demonstration project in Ohio.

The community energy storage part of the project, which is being developed by S&C Electric Company, is intended help stabilize the grid and provide backup power, potentially enabling plug-in electric vehicles and a higher percentage of intermittent renewable-energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

In January, battery maker GS Battery teamed up with screen-printed solar-cell manufacturer Suniva to develop solar-power systems with batteries that can store the energy for times of peak demand. And Ice Energy — which reduces peak electricity demand from air conditioners in the middle of the day by making ice at night, when demand is low and surplus electricity is available, and using it to help cool air conditioning refrigerant when temperatures are high — signed a deal to sell its devices to the 11 municipal utilities represented by the Southern California Public Power Authority.

While many of the announcements have represented only small steps — such as pilot projects or an entrance into niche markets — they show that a number of technologies are on the right track, and some are ready to go, she said. "Exciting things are happening that set the stage to really make [commercialization] happen short-term," Bradford said. "These announcements are certainly steps in the right direction to get these technologies ready for electric vehicles and the grid."

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