May 27, 2021: A report by Peter Harrop of the analytics firm IDTechEx released on May 25 says the need for stationary energy storage cannot be met by batteries or pumped storage and that the storage sector is urgently seeking alternatives.
In the Stationary Energy Storage Without Batteries: Grid, Microgrid, UPS, Trackside 2021-2041 report, Harrop says the stationary energy storage sector is “starved of lithium-ion batteries and pumped storage sites”.
Batteries and pumped hydro issues include environmental and scale-up issues, from materials shortages to lack of appropriate sites, as well as their inability to cope with emerging needs such as surges and seasonal storage.
“Metals shortages are taking over from too few gigafactories as the primary impediment ongoing,” Harrop says. “Demand for electric vehicles and grid renewables storage is rocketing even before solar houses reach the tipping point and need tens of millions more. In addition, energy-independent smart cities need distributed energy storage for their ocean, wind and ubiquitous solar power.”
He says that self-leakage makes lithium batteries ‘useless’ for the new requirement of six-month storage season to season on the back of ‘all that cheap solar’. And pumped storage cannot do it because ‘it is busy with shorter-term needs’, he says.
Alternative batteries are gaining traction, Harrop claims, and in another report, IDTechEx says redox flow batteries are succeeding — “but more is needed”.
The market is ripe for new options, says Harrop, and names liquid air, compressed air, gravitational energy and thermal storage, as well as supercapacitors and derivatives, as having huge potential.
“Battery-less stationary storage will surge to a $6.5 billion business in 2031 with much more beyond,” said IDTechEx CEO Raghu Das. “Compressing air or lifting weights can win for the developing market for massive seasonal storage of solar power but there are subsets and other options.
“For electricity supply, see how there is scope for storing hydrogen for fuel cells, using flywheels, new lithium-ion supercapacitors, pseudo-capacitors, thermal storage, liquifying or compressing air and so on.
“These non-battery solutions mostly involve no previous metals, toxins or explosions and the research pipeline of improvement is formidable. Many non-battery options are promised to reach half the levelized cost of storage of lithium-ion batteries.”