Grid-scale energy storage: We're not there yet, report says


By: SGN Staff


By Jesse Berst


A new report from Frost & Sullivan details the technological challenges and problems the company says need to be resolved before grid-scale energy storage becomes a real-world option for smart grid, renewables, automotive and back-up power sectors.


Although I have not read the full report, I found the press release disappointing and short-sighted. First, it breaks no new ground, essentially restating the drop-dead obvious notion that batteries need to be better and cheaper before they take over the world.


Second, it gives no visibility into the path this technology will take. To read the description, energy storage is sitting on the sidelines while it waits for improvement. In fact, storage is finding all sorts of uses. As with all new technology adoption curves, it is finding its way first into specialized, high-value applications that can justify the high cost. Each time that cost comes down, it will open up a new tranche of applications that become affordable.


For instance, Spokane-based Demand Energy just placed two of its grid-scale storage systems into two New York luxury high-rises. The systems charge using inexpensive off-peak power, then release power during peak periods.


Today, luxury buildings in an area of extremely high electricity rates. Tomorrow luxury buildings in areas with lower rates. Eventually commercial buildings in many areas.


Perhaps the full report has more of the information we need to make decisions. Yes, we know that storage is expensive. Yes, we know it has technical hurdles. But when will those hurdles be overcome and in what order? Equally important, what niche applications make economic sense today, and which ones will become viable tomorrow?


If you think you have answers to any of those questions, use the Comment form below.


Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid He consults to smart grid companies seeking market entry advice and M&A advisory. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the US and abroad, he also serves on the Advisory Council of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Energy & Environment directorate.


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