Is the world gearing up to take a gamble on battery storage? Well if you’re iconic innovator Elon Musk, you can really bet big, and you can be sure that people will be watching. The reality of our fast-paced digital world is that a conversation on Twitter can now lead to a bet to deliver the world’s largest lithium-ion battery to Australia in just 100 days.
Of course, the background to this challenge takes more than 280 characters to explore . Australia’s energy landscape is one that’s facing a difficult period of transition. Battery storage offers a complement to the emerging focus on renewable energy that helps balance the challenges of meeting peak demand.
Meeting challenges is something Elon Musk likes to tackle head-on. If he’s not gearing up for the future of space flight, he’s gambling his way towards the future of energy storage technology. With that kind of enthusiasm, it’s perhaps no surprise that Tesla ended up beating the deadline. Now Tesla’s 100MW mega-battery is powered up and ready to help meet the energy needs of Southern Australia. But what does this kind of technology mean for the rest of the world?
Discussion around the needs and benefits of energy storage has been growing louder in recent years, and so too has the capacity of that storage. At the end of 2015, there was a grand total of 146 gigawatts of installed storage capacity globally, that’s roughly double the total capacity installed in 1985. The largest share of that storage is found in the mature technology of pumped hydro. But in our transformative modern energy landscape, it’s battery storage where the chips are on the table.
The word ‘disruptive’ is often used to describe new technologies, but many experts believe that in reference to battery storage, disruptive is right on the money. These technologies can be utilised in everything from residential energy storage and consumption, commercial energy needs, right up to grid balancing and supporting national power networks. The implications of these solutions are already delivering results around the ASEAN region.
One of the greatest challenges of rural electrification is balancing the needs of geographically diverse communities with the significant infrastructure requirements of reliable power. Battery storage technologies can unlock the opportunity to access modern electricity for even the most remote communities. This kind of technology is underpinning a drive to utilise battery storage to electrify rural India, and similar technologies are being explored in helping to meet the rural electrification needs in ASEAN’s largest nation – Indonesia.
The growth in solar technologies to power residential homes has been significant in recent years. In Malaysia, the Net Energy Metering scheme has enabled home consumers to generate and manage their own solar power generation. Combining this capability with battery storage would mean that consumption was not limited by the traditional cycles of day and night. These opportunities are why residential power storage globally is predicted to grow at a huge 73.9% in 2017.
If Tesla’s headline-grabbing gamble showed us anything, it’s that battery storage doesn’t have to be limited to small-scale application anymore. ASEAN is already experimenting with the grander opportunities of battery storage in the wider electricity grid. In Singapore, battery storage trials are underway exploring two different types of this technology. This project aims to explore the potential for battery storage to provide a smooth transition towards greater reliance on renewable energy and the storage potential that will enable this transition.
It’s always important to understand the opportunities of disruptive technologies. Yet when it comes to disruption, the truest indicator is often in the economics. Battery storage isn’t just limited to building the potential of electricity generation. The emerging landscape means batteries form the foundation of everything from the latest iPhones to our budding demand for electric vehicles.
Analysts have already crunched some important numbers. The average price of lithium-ion batteries stood at US$273 per kilowatt hour in 2016. That’s a 73% drop since 2010 alone. Looking ahead to the future, IHS Markit predicts that cost to fall below US$200 by 2019. Is it any wonder that the world’s cumulative battery storage is expected to have risen from the 4GW today to 52GW by 2025?
It might be a public bet that’s forcing Tesla’s battery storage into the headlines today. The reality behind that headline goes far beyond a gamble. Battery storage is unlocking a future of disruptive energy storage technology that could well change our power landscape for good.