Energy Storage

[San Francisco, California USA]

Renewable Energy’s Missing Link

On Wednesday, April 11, 2007, I attended The MIT Club of Northern California Clean Technology Program event titled Energy Storage – The Missing Link.

First, the website for the 2007 California Clean Tech Open (CCTO) should go live with details on the 2007 competition Monday, April 16, 2007. This was per a representative from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. This year’s competition will add a Green Building prize to last year’s prize categories of Air, Water & Waste, Energy Efficiency, Renewables, Smart Power, and Transportation.

The speakers at this Energy Storage event had a large centralized power plant focus. Since PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG) co-sponsored the event, at least one speaker should have presented small scale, distributed energy solutions for balance.

This key slide from the Electricity Storage Association ( was first presented by Dan Rastler of the Electric Power Research Institute and includes the following energy storage technologies: Pumped Hydro Storage, various Batteries, CAES (Compressed Air Energy Storage), Flywheels, SMES (Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage), and Ultra Capacitors. Hydrogen and ubiquitous fossil fuel storage solutions are not mapped. Mr. Rastler stated today’s energy storage solutions are two (2) to five (5) times more expensive than the ideal target goal of less then $150 per kWh (kilowatt-hour) for a four (4) hour energy storage system. In photovoltaic terms, four hours is sufficient to extend the summer peak afternoon sun to peak summer electricity consumption in the early evening.

As can be seen above, deep cycle, lead acid batteries still dominate from a cost per unit power perspective for practical energy storage applications including solar electric systems. Rick Winter from the consulting firm, Distributed Utility Associates, predicted Lithium-ion batteries will catch and overtake Lead acid batteries on a cost per unit power basis in the near term because of applied research focus and critical mass production returns to scale. Many next generation Plug In Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) will adopt Lithium-ion batteries instead of Nickel Metal Hydride batteries (NiMH) despite recent Lithium-ion battery issues like Dell blames battery for exploding notebook. And a number of panelists advocated the PHEV V2G (vehicle to grid) concept promoted by PG&E.

Mike Gravely, Research Program Manager for the California Energy Commission, discussed the Energy Systems Integration area of the PIER (Public Interest Energy Research) program. Mr. Gravely directs over $60 million in energy research projects with a focus on technologies near or ready for commercialization including energy storage. Check the PIER site for new program funding solicitations and deadlines.

Dr. David Mills, Chairman and Chief R&D officer of Ausra, Inc., pitched a storage angle on the CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) technology Ausra is developing. CSP uses the sun to heat water driving steam turbines to produce electric power at market competitive prices. Dr. Mills envisions thermal storage of heated water and steam for time delayed use by turbines with high thermal storage efficiency. Dr. Mills moved his company from Australia to Palo Alto, California, to gain access to capital and the US market to commercialize Ausra’s Compact linear Fresnel reflector (CLFR) power plant technology. Ausra claims to be building or developing several CLFR based plants in Portugal, Australia, and the USA.

Upcoming electrical energy storage industry events in the United States include the Electricity Storage Association 2007 Meeting from May 23-25, 2007, in Boston, Massachusetts, and EESAT 2007, the Electrical Energy Storage Applications and Technologies Conference, from September 23-26, 2007, in San Francisco, California.

As usual, Leah Krauss, UPI Energy Correspondent, has chimed in with a contemporary article on the energy storage subject pertinent to photovoltaics in Solar World: Storage is key.

One comment

  1. Xantha says:

    Thanks Ed for profiling our event. As an FYI though – the MITCNC’s sponsors have no influence over the topic of our panels or who we invite to our panels, so it was not up to PG&E to try to “balance” the panel – the MITCNC Clean Tech Program wanted to focus on utility-scale storage. We may have another event on smaller-scale storage later on down the line, so if you have any speakers you might recommend, please let us know!

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