New long-duration energy storage technologies could help address key grid resilience issues, but market constraints current limit adoption to lithium-ion batteries, a technology developer says.
“Right now, in the requests for proposals…we are being asked for lithium-ion only,” Lightsource bp’s head of integrated photovoltaic solutions, Sara Kayal, told an RE+ panel discussion in Anaheim, California.
“They’re not giving us an option to provide solutions that can address some of the issues with curtailment,” she added. She was referring a surplus energy problem that arises for utilities when weather conditions are favourable for renewables, like on windy or sunny days, or on holidays when consumption may be low. Surplus energy can cause blackouts or a slump in prices—problems that energy storage could solve by holding onto the excess power until demand is high.
Long-term energy storage has become a critical next step for building a clean electricity grid, reports Utility Dive. And while researchers have found several utility-scale options, including pumped hydro and molten salt, the current focus has narrowed to lithium-ion batteries.
Market constraints are partly to blame, said the panelists. For instance, some storage technologies with designs that consider resilience against droughts, wildfires, or extreme winter storms are devalued because modelling conventions are based on more typical weather and operating conditions. Interconnection delays have also made it difficult to bring new projects online, which means markets do not take chances on technologies with less-proven track records.
Incentives in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act could help support some of these new ideas to compete on a level playing field. That matters, experts say, because incrementally increasing the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries will not be sufficient to address the shortcomings of grid resilience.
“Many technologies are competing in the market today, said Fluence VP of Growth Kiran Kumaraswamy. “I don’t think there is a clear favourite yet.”
When that favourite does emerge, “it won’t be, ‘here’s what lithium does and this will be marginally better.’ It has to offer a completely unique economic proposition,” Kumaraswamy said.