Sinking storage costs may make renewables the winning team

Sinking storage costs may make renewables the winning team

Energy storage costs are sinking, which benefits the success of renewables on the energy market. The University of California and the Technical University in Munich have now conducted a study on the matter, explaining concern that a decrease in research and development funding may impede a possible growth for renewables.

 

These days, many developments are taking place in the renewable energy sector. The importance of wind and solar is growing steadily, and their success could soon take on a whole new level – aided by storage. However, the funding for research and development plays an important role in this.

 

Prices for lithium-ion storage batteries may soon drop to historic low

In a recent study published in Nature Energy, the University of California and the Technical University in Munich have had a close look at energy storage projects. According to a forecast made in the study, their prices may soon drop by as much as 9,900 USD (from 10,000 USD per kW/h in the early 1990s to 100 USD per kW/h in 2019). This would make them beat the prices for solar and wind, and together, solar, wind and storage might soon be able to outcompete coal and natural gas – simply based upon the cost.

 

Funding for research and development plays an important role

However, reaching this promising price of 100 USD per kW/h could be impeded by insuffcient funding for research and development. According to the study, U.S. federal investment in basic and applied research sank over the past four decades – from about 1.2% to 0.8% of the gross domestic product of the country.

 

Two-factor model helps explain sinking storage costs

In order to analyze the impact of this lower investment, the scientists have developed a two-factor learning curve that focuses on production volumes and patent activity. As the two conventional models usually lean on economies of sale or a classic experience curve approach and often overestimate prices, this model offers a more realistic approach, or so the scientists claim.

By using this model, the scientists determined that research and development funding actually has a major impact on energy storage costs, as does innovation. Hence they the need for more research in new storage technologies, saying there is currently no clear prevailing technology. As a result, a diverse range of options may outlast lithium-ion batteries. “There may be room for a number of different battery chemistries that all provide different services on an evolving grid, some providing voltage regulation and frequency control, and others serving long duration outages and providing back-up for buildings and communities”, the researchers said.

 

Title image: Maxx-Studio/Shutterstock
Soure: PV magazine/TU Munich

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