As more and more attention is paid to the impacts of climate change, methods of energy generation are changing rapidly from fossil fuels to renewables. The use of energy sources such as solar and wind, however, bring their own challenges, as supply can be less reliable. This means that energy production from these sources will be intermittent.
Energy storage has typically not been considered practical for the grid system due to a lack of adequate technology with which to store it and uncertainty over the demand for energy storage devices in the future. Cost is also a consideration, as it is more cost effective to generate electricity as it is needed than to generate it in advance and store it for later use.
A recent report from the Clean Energy Council considered the feasibility of energy storage in Australia and concluded that there is a clear market for this within the country. According to the study, there are six parts of the market which could benefit from energy storage: network support, market participation, grid stability, private residential storage, support for isolated or remote systems, and private commercial storage.
The researchers estimated that the potential market for energy storage in Australia could be 2,500 megawatts by 2030. Commercial storage would make up a large proportion of this, and operations such as air traffic control systems and hospitals would welcome a reliable supply of energy.
The report conceded that there are still several barriers to the uptake of energy storage. For example, at the moment there is no commercial standard for a utility battery. There is also limited infrastructure available to integrate such systems into the grid, and there are concerns about the safety of batteries. Cost is still prohibitive, and there is currently little incentive for electricity companies to back energy storage.
However, the Clean Energy Council addressed some of these issues in its study. Price, for example, may not remain a concern for long, as the cost of storage devices is decreasing. Safety concerns could be tackled by commissioning a study into the safety of current devices. Technical and regulatory barriers could also be overcome by making the standards, software and regulations surrounding energy storage as simple as possible.
Overall, the research showed that, though barriers to the use of energy storage exist, they need not be prohibitive. A market for such devices definitely exists and that market is likely to increase as renewables reach their full potential.
While energy storage may not become a reality in the immediate future, the time is right for discussion on the subject to begin.