Energy storage has been one of the protagonists of the industry in 2017, a year that has left not a few milestones in a field that is gaining so much momentum that even Google has decided to put its head to launch, like many others, in the search for the solution perfect for storing energy on a large scale.
While progress is being made towards this definitive solution, Google has not been the only player to join a field in which energy majors, as well as solar developers, are already setting their attention. These are just some of the most prominent movements in energy storage throughout a year that has also been marked by macro-projects and full-throttle deployments in emergency situations.
Next, a review of what 2017 has given itself in a field that is decisive for the expansion of clean energies in a context in which most of the world’s electricity is still obtained from fossil sources.
New players: energy companies and solar producers.
Apart from Google’s projects for this market, those who have taken firm steps towards it are the large energy companies and companies specializing in solar production. Thus, with regard to the former, the acquisition and merger processes have been a constant that AES Corporation has undergone, among others. In addition to the joint venture -Fluence- that it has promoted with Siemens, other entries have arrived, for example, with the acquisition by Enel of the specialized company Demand Energy.
Solar technology developers also want to be in the game who, little by little, are moving towards hybrid solutions and either have already created technology for storage, or are in it. The domestic solar energy market does not seem willing to leave this field aside either. Proof of this, alliances such as those of Tesla and SolarCity, or that of Mercedes-Benz Energy with Vivint Solar.
Macroprojects: Tesla and the Californian example.
It took six months for a set of 30 MW lithium batteries to be built in California with the capacity to supply 20,000 homes. The bet in a state to the flag of clean energy in the United States occurred in response to the massive leak of natural gas registered in the Aliso Canyon in October 2015. Among other contributions, this alternative illustrated how batteries for the storage of energy can respond with more agility than traditional plants to emergency situations.
Continuing with the macro-projects, during 2017 another milestone has come from the hand of Tesla that, in less than 100 days, has completed the construction of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in Jamestown, Australia. The 93 days that the execution of the project lasted, or its 100 MW of Powerpack, are some of the great figures that this installation leaves behind.
Days counted for gasoline and diesel vehicles.
In an area in which the company led by Elon Musk also has a lot to say, 2017 has also made important progress, not in terms of developments, but also in the countdown to the end of gasoline vehicles and diesel.
Along these lines, Norway has already focused on 2025, the year for which it expects all the cars sold in the country to be electric. A little longer-term looks France, which has set the same goal, but for 2040. The same path will foreseeably follow the United Kingdom, while from a market as immense as the Chinese one, the authorities are already weighing bans on the engines of internal combustion.
On the side of the manufacturers, there is also a moment of transition towards electric mobility, for which battery systems are decisive. Thus, from Volvo it is expected that the entire fleet will be equipped with electric motors in 2019. General Motors, for its part, has also positioned itself in the bond of zero-emission mobility and will take steps in this regard.
With the weight that energy storage is taking on, and with the multitude of projects undertaken or planned, prices in 2017 have tended to fall. Proof of this came with the signing by AES Distributed Energy of a contract for the construction of a solar plant with storage systems on the island of Kauai that pushed prices down to 11 cents per kWh.
However, that figure was far from being ground. Another contract, in this case signed by Tucson Electric for a combined installation for collection and storage, lowered prices to 4.5 cents per kWh.
Boost to wireless alternatives and virtual plants.
However, the alternatives that avoid investments in updating the electrical networks are gaining ground. In this context, in which microgrids take positions, batteries are usually the most widely used alternative. An example of the prominence they are gaining has been left by the Punkin Center Project promoted in Arizona. There, the authorities have opted for batteries compared to other systems that would have cost more as it is essential to update electrical wiring along more than 30 kilometers of mountainous terrain.
At the same time, progress in the field of virtual power plants has also recently been noticed, which, from concept, has now passed into practice. This has happened, for example, in Southern California in the hands of the specialized company Advanced Microgrid Solutions, which will continue to deepen this matter.
Although there are more, the previous ones have been some of the crucial moments in a field that will undoubtedly be dominant throughout 2018 when, surely, new milestones will be added in a field in which there is still much to explore.