Energy storage: Clean tech's latest darling

Energy storage is emerging as an important industry where there's lots of room for innovative new companies.

Large-scale technology cost-effectively supplies utilities with available energy regardless of fluctuating demand with minimal waste. Small-scale technology can keep the lights on, for example, during storms and power interruptions.

Energy storage also facilitates integration of variable sources of renewable energy -- solar and wind -- into the grid.

During the first half of 2013, 38 projects either have been announced or deployed -- about 633 projects are operating or under development worldwide, says Navigant Research.

Examples of energy storage projects/policies are:

• Germany's feed-in tariff for energy storage integrated with solar.

• California's requirement of energy storage as a preferred energy source.

• U.K.'s 6-megawatt lithium-ion battery.

• China's battery bank that can store 36 megawatt-hours of power from a nearby 140 MW wind and solar plant. Duke Energy has invested in a similar-sized installation for a wind farm in Texas.

• Japan's 60 MW battery bank, slated to be operational by 2015 (pictured above).

New technologies, including capacitor battery technology, lithium titanate oxide, nickel-iron and solar thermal, are swelling the pipeline of advanced energy storage projects. At the same time, new variants on older technologies, such as power-to-gas, also are coming online, reports Navigant.

"There are now 29 different energy storage technologies in use worldwide, some with just a small fraction of the overall market," says Anissa Dehamna, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. "In terms of regional capacity, Asia Pacific continues to be the world leader in deployed capacity, with almost 1.2 gigawatts (GW) representing 47 percent of global capacity, followed by North America and Western Europe. In terms of installed projects, however, North America leads with 115 deployments."

While Asian economies are moving toward advanced battery technologies, with the intention of developing export industries, European economies are focusing on integrating renewables at both the bulk and distributed level. The North American market is characterized by a policy of funding innovation and, consequently, remains the most technologically diverse region in the industry.

The market for energy storage is extremely fragmented, with at least 136 vendors offering various solutions. Excluding traditional pumped storage, the Top 3 vendors are NGK Insulators, Energy Storage and Power LLC, and Solar Millennium. Energy storage is a prime area for venture capital right now.

Another key development in the energy storage market is the increasing specialization and repositioning of firms in the supply chain. Some technology vendors have repositioned themselves as systems integrators, and in some cases, integrators are entering the sector from other industries. This is a critical time for the advanced energy storage industry -- in order for the industry to mature and scale up, more systems integrators are needed, says Navigant.

Navigant's report, "Energy Storage Tracker 3Q13," includes a database of all the projects in the world.

Because energy storage businesses can't find people with the necessary skills, San Jose State University is starting Battery University this summer.  

Support from Department of Energy (DOE), FERC

DOE's ARPA-E program has $120 million for its Batteries and Energy Storage Hub, launched last year, to "develop radically new scientific approaches." The goal is to develop technology that provides five times the energy storage achievable today at 20 percent of the price by 2017.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is facilitating use of energy storage through pricing of technologies and ensuring fair market access.

Also, legislation has been introduced that would give a 30 percent tax investment tax credit to businesses that install storage technology.

Editor's note: To learn more about energy and the convergence of sustainability and technology, be sure to check out VERGE SF Oct. 14-17.

This article originally appeared at Sustainable Business News.

Image courtesy of Samsung.