Beyond lithium ion, the future of energy storage
From 2000 to 2018, installed wind power grew from 17000 megawatts to over 563000 megawatts. And solar power grew from a mere 1250 megawatts to 485000 megawatts. And it’s not stopping there. Renewables are expected to grow an additional 50 percent over the next five years. We know today that solar PV and wind are the least expensive way to generate electricity. In particular, the price of solar photo voltaic has plummeted far faster than all forecasts predicted, after China flooded the market with cheap panels in the late 2000s. All the Wall Street analysts did not believe that solar was going to ever stand on its own without subsides. A few years later, even the most conservative analysts started realizing that actually solar was going to become economic most parts of realizing that actually solar was going to become economic in most parts of the world pretty quickly. And as solar has gotten cheaper, so too have lithium ion batteries, the technology that powers electric vehicles, our cell phones and laptops. And thank to improved manufacturing techniques and economies of scale, costs have fallen 85 percent since 2010. Now, wind or solar plus battery storage is oftentimes more economical than peaker plants, that is, power plants that only fire when demand is high. Tesla, for example, built the world’s largest lithium ion battery in Australia, pairing it with a wind farm to deliver electricity during peak hours. But this doesn’t mean lithium ion is necessary economical for other grid applications. We don’t really see the cost structure coming down to the point where it can serve those tens to hundreds of hours applications. Basically, the market is ripe for competition. There are dozens of chemistry being looked at today. There are hundreds of companies working on scaling up and manufacturing new battery technology. Lithium ion has done remarkable things for technology, but let’s go to something far better.