While the current electrical grid is a modern marvel, there is a general consensus that it needs to be upgraded to a Smart Grid with grid storage. Energy storage is, in fact, a vital component of the coming Smart Grid, and NanoMarkets predicts that new materials and systems for chemical batteries and supercapacitors for Smart Grid electrical storage applications represent a significant opportunity.
Even though pumped hydro is the most efficient means for storing generated power for later use, NanoMarkets believes that chemical batteries and supercapacitors represent the biggest growth opportunity for most applications, as they are not limited to certain geological locations and do not have the potential environmental impact issues of pumped hydro.
The near-term opportunities for quality and load leveling storage are clear. Approximately 90 percent of power outages in advanced economies last two seconds or less, and 98 percent of outages last 30 seconds or less, but their economic effects are large. In the U.S. alone, the impact of power interruptions due to lost time, lost commerce, and damage to equipment is estimated to range from $75 to $200 billion per year.
Supercapacitors are well-suited to many short-term (less than a minute) load leveling and quality applications, because they have an extremely fast discharge and charging response, a high current capacity, and can be cycled hundreds of thousands of times without degradation to their storage ability.
While there is currently a large growth market for supercapacitors in uninterruptible power supply (UPS) battery systems for protecting critical infrastructure, improvements in capacity and cost are creating new markets for them as well, particularly in new high-tech industrial applications.
Chemical batteries, meanwhile, are ideal candidates for longer-term (minutes or hours) power quality applications and for peak-shaving applications, because they have higher energy densities and, for many types of batteries, have long service lifetimes.
They represent a critical component of several Smart Grid applications at several levels along the value chain. Bulk price arbitrage, central generation capacity efficiency improvement (peak shaving), transmission capacity/transmission congestion relief, and the integration of variable output sources, such as wind and solar, are all crucial storage applications for chemical batteries in a successful Smart Grid.
The need for storage that can integrate solar and wind cannot be over emphasized. In the U.S., 30 states have renewable energy mandates that average 17 percent integration of renewable energy sources by 2012 to 2025. Only with a significant amount of electrical storage can this level of wind and solar be integrated into a stable electrical grid, so the value proposition for new forms of electrical storage is difficult to overestimate.
In China, for example, generating capacity is not keeping up with increased demand, and storage is being examined as a means to balance load and demand. China also has several provinces where up to 20 percent of their electrical power comes from wind. Electrical storage will be needed in these areas to provide higher power quality.