Energy storage: it’s no longer a problem, it’s become a huge business opportunity. As one market watcher recently put it: “The energy storage industry is in the early stages of what will become a giant global market”. As with any new market, however, it is difficult for participants to find reliable information. Fortunately, there is now the interactive International Energy Storage Database (IESDB) of the US Department of Energy (DoE), which provides up-to-date, vetted data on storage projects across the world. Cedric Christensen of Strategen Consulting, the organisation responsible for running the IESDB, explains to Mike Stone of the Energy Storage Report how it works – and what he expects of the future: “We expect announcements to multiply in 2014”.
One of the many exciting aspects of energy storage is just how new the industry is. But it’s this very novelty that leads to a lot of hype, flim-flam and plain old-fashioned snake-oil salesmanship. Getting trustworthy info on technologies, techniques and markets that barely existed a decade ago can be frustrating, and the sector’s 10-a-penny forecasts, which usually cost a lot more than that, are sensibly to be taken with a boulder of salt.
Which begs the question: where to dig for hard facts? One of the most impressive mines of useful information for researchers, investors and enthusiasts alike is the US Department of Energy (DoE) International Energy Storage Database.Funded by the DoE’s Office of Electricity and Sandia National Laboratories, the IESDB started out in October 2011.
With the energy storage sector seeing rapid growth in recent times, the database is more and more regarded by the energy storage community as an invaluable source of information on the state of the sector. However, Cedric Christensen, director of operations and development at Strategen Consulting, the company that runs the database on behalf of the DOE, calls on companies and policymakers worldwide to contribute information to the database, both project information and information on government policies.
Who is the IESDB for and how can they use it?
The IESDB has the goal of becoming the go-to place for accurate and up-to-date information on energy storage projects and policies. The database is publicly accessible and simple to use. Its purpose is to expand the industry by creating a central source of accessible data for independent power producers, renewable energy developers, utilities, policy makers, environmental organisations, integrators, software companies and the general public.
You can use the database to upload new energy storage projects. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who would like to. How they do that?
Users can upload data to the International Energy Storage Database directly onto the website. Our interface is designed to be user-friendly and accountable. To create new project entries, once you’re on the IESDB, simply click ‘New Project’ on the left-hand navigation bar and follow the instructions.
We urge everyone to fill in as many of the information fields as possible and we’re very keen to see photos too, so please include these if you can.
How will users know that the information uploaded is accurate and trustworthy?
All of the user-generated data goes through a rigorous third-party vetting process. Our team contacts the principal equity owners to verify the data. Our priority is to check the energy storage technology type, duration, rated power, location and services or use cases for the grid.
How much grid-scale energy storage is out there do you think and is it possible to see any regional trends yet, or speculate on the rate of growth in large-scale energy storage? Are there any growth hot spots?
The database just reached 176.6GW of listed capacity for a total of 646 projects in 45 countries.
We have designed the database to make it easy for users to analyse the data and sorting projects by date of operations is an easy way to reveal which regions are seeing an increase in activity. We have noticed that Japan, the United States and certain regions of Europe with high penetrations of renewables are showing the highest growth rates by total number of projects.
Based on recent policy development in California, Ontario and elsewhere, we expect the announcements to multiply in 2014. We rely on our partners and users to help keep track of this growth. However, certain regions of the world such as South America and Africa are still underrepresented in the International Energy Storage Database. It’s difficult to give a precise figure for the global capacity because of the variety of applications.
For instance, a project was recently submitted with 400MW of power supplied from two large flywheels located in the UK. The flywheels reduce the national grid load during plasma pulses aimed at activating a nuclear fusion reactor during 30-second increments.
In addition to projects, you have a section on energy storage policies. Whilst extremely useful, this is currently only for those in the US. Do you have any plans to map policies in any other regions, such as the European Union or China?
In the US, California is driving the policy agenda for energy storage in the United States with AB2514 (the California Energy Storage Bill), long-term procurement planning and the Self-Generation Incentive Program for behind-the-meter devices.
As for the question of policy further afield, we have been contacted regarding a number of new policies enacted throughout the world and we plan on expanding the policy section of the database to include other regions with an interactive user interface. We’re working with our network of international partners to identify a critical mass of policies before we expand the scope of coverage. All suggestions are welcome.
You mentioned partner organisations. Who are they and what is the purpose of creating partnerships?
The California Energy Storage Alliance, the China Energy Storage Alliance, the India Energy Storage Alliance and the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium play a key role in growing the database. Our partners collect and add energy storage project and policy data to the IESDB and ensure that all project data submitted to the database has been verified with the project equity owners of those projects.
We are currently in discussions with several new stakeholders throughout the world; we will be announcing several partnerships in 2014. We’re currently seeking the right partners in Africa. Please let us know if you have any ideas.
Are there any other aspects to the database that you’d like to explain to our readers? And do you have any future plans for it?
A new feature that we added in November allows users to create their own maps based on real-time queries. The engine uses Google Maps and sets up a spreadsheet that is compatible with most mapping software. We’re also in the process of developing new visualisation tools for our users. Please share your selection of projects directly on our website.
Mike Stone is chief editor of the Energy Storage Report, a blog and newsletter that provides readers with the latest news and intelligence on energy storage developments. This article was republished from the Energy Storage Report in collaboration with and with permission from the author.
In addition to the Energy Storage Report, a good source of information on energy storage is the Australian website RenewEconomy. On 16 December, RenewEconomy published an interesting feature on three “long-term” energy storage solutions (i.e. not in the form of batteries), namely chemical energy storage (such as power-to-gas), compressed air energy storage and pumped hydro.
One of the more innovative ideas discussed by RenewEconomy is that of the Boston-based company General Compression which has developed the notion of a “solar bank” in which households could “deposit” excess solar power and withdraw it when needed. The power would be stored as compressed air in caverns.
An interesting question raised by RenewEconomy is whether energy storage represents a threat to traditional utilities or an opportunity. While network operators one the one hand need storage to manage the growing share of renewable energy, storage also gives consumers the option of taking themselves off the grid – leading to even more grid instability. The outcome of this struggle will depend partly on whether household storage or utility-scale storage is the most efficient option and also on whether utilities will be able to gain entry into the household and commercial storage market.
Certainly they are facing stiff competition. Earlier this month, California-based PV supplier SolarCity, supported by the famous Tesla founder and owner Elon Musk, ventured into the commercial energy storage sector. The company offers large power consumers (manufacturers, retailers, schools, hospitals) advanced battery and demand response systems, using what they call “the world’s most advanced battery pack” from Tesla Motors.
Still, utilities are not likely to remain passive, certainly not in California, where at the end of October the California Public Utilities Commission made a decision requiring the major utilities in that state to build 1325 MW of energy storage by 2020. It’s a $ 3 billion program that will catapult California into a leading position in energy storage worldwide.
In the UK, S&C Electric Europe, Samsung SDI and Younicos earlier this year launched what was billed as “Europe’s largest energy storage trial”: a $28.6 million project that will store 10 MWh of power and that will of course be used at utility-scale.
In Germany, on the other hand, a major push has started by German investment bank KfW to finance battery storage systems for households and small businesses. KfW has tens of billions of euros invested in energy efficiency and renewables projects.
A spokesman of KfW noted that “batteries are still very expensive”, but that may well change. As energy author Ramez Naam has noted, energy storage has been getting “exponentially cheaper” in the same way as PV solar power.
RenewEconomy reported on Wednesday that according to Steve Hellman, president of battery storage start-up Eos Energy Storage, “in 2014-15 energy storage will actually be less expensive or competitive with gas”. Although Eos is a “start-up”, RenewEconomy notes that Hellman has an impressive career behind him, among other things building his own energy trading company which grew to $8 billion in revenues and 27 tankers. “He hasn’t just wandered in from an environmental NGO.”
Plenty of opportunities ahead, therefore. For those of you who would like to profit from the coming energy storage boom, Chet Lyons of the Energy Strategy Group, recommends “5 companies positioned to succeed in grid-scale energy storage”.