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The future of energy storage solutions

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

Over the past decade, prices for Solar PV Plants have reached an all-time low, leading to thousands of GW being added to the energy generation worldwide. But, the sun ain't always shining! Installing an on-grid plant is an optimum solution when you can consume all the generated energy then and there itself. The net-metering scheme gives the benefit of storing energy for the end-users, but in the end, there is someone who has to pay the price for storage and in the case of net-metering it is the DISCOM. To firm renewable energy in our system, that is to ensure there is always energy on demand no matter the time of day or what weather it is one of the biggest challenges in the industry. We need to store the renewable energy for use later and the main option right now is limited to lithium batteries which are used in Tesla's Powerwall for home or utility storage solution Powerpack. Now, although the price for lithium batteries is dropping year on year, experts say the price will remain too expensive for utility-scale applications. To get to a utility level storage, the price point needs to come down to nearly 20 times than it is right now for lithium batteries. Plus they pose a fire risk over time as per usage.

To address this issue, there is a cadre of entrepreneurs who are working to commercialize energy storage most innovatively which has serious potential.

From 2010 to 2020, installed capacity for renewable energy has increased from 10milion GW to 27million GW! And this is not stopping here, renewable energy is expected to grow 50% over just the next 5 years!

Solar PV is today the cheapest way of generating energy since China flooded the market with cheap photovoltaic cells since the 2010s. And along with this, so has lithium batteries have been becoming cheaper with costs falling by 85% since 2010. Currently, solar or wind farm in combination with lithium-ion batteries is the cheapest form of energy storage option, cheaper than the peaker plants. Tesla currently has installed the world's largest lithium-ion battery bank on a utility level in Australia paired with wind turbines and is in process to install another 300MW sized storage solution in Australia. But this solution is not workable financially for the billions of smaller-scale applications like residential or small-scale industries.

Let us take a look at other solutions in this field.

Flow batteries: One of the main alternatives that are being considered is flow batteries. Unlike lithium-ion, they store the electrolyte in external tanks providing with much lower fire and capacity fade risk.