For those of you following the cleantech business, you’ve probably noticed an emerging market segment in the past year: energy storage. There’s a lot of demand for clean energy to be produced – along with ways to store that energy for when it’s needed through an economically feasible business model. Electric automakers have gotten into that market – and we’re likely to see electric vehicles added to energy storage potential.
California Gov. Jerry Brown called for 50% of California’s electricity to come from renewables by 2030 in his “State of the State” address last week. That’s up from former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 20% and his own previous 33% mandate for renewable energy. Utilities in the state – and in several others in the US – have been investing in energy storage to address renewable energy mandates and to better manage their grids. Energy storage has become “a powerful and appealing alternative to upgrading grid infrastructure to solve these challenges,” according to Navigant Research.
Demand and price can swing up and down over a 24-hour period, causing uproar from residential and commercial property owners – and from state regulatory agencies. Utilities are exploring batteries for energy storage as a way to bring stability to peak periods and to move forward on renewable energy mandates.
Solar power companies are getting into the game. In its new study, “The Future of Solar-Plus-Storage in the U.S,” GTM Research reports that four of the nation’s top 10 residential solar installers currently offer “solar plus” energy storage. These four companies, including top installer SolarCity and fifth-ranked NRG Home Solar, installed 38% of all US solar energy in the first three quarters of 2014.
If you look at the first chart in this article, you’ll see three automakers identified as part of the energy storage market: Tesla Motors; Chinese automaker BYD; and the company that used to be known as CODA Automotive that is out of the electric vehicle business, post-bankruptcy, and is now CODA Energy – an energy storage systems company. These automakers have also sold their EV battery technology to other automakers and to clientele in other industries.
There’s a good deal of speculation out there that electric vehicles (EVs) could be viable energy storage containers. That could come from a fleet with 150 EVs parked on its corporate campus for long stretches of time; on average, those EVs might be in motion only one quarter of a 24-hour cycle, bringing huge opportunities for power storage. That could be a revenue stream for company, and a support system for renewable energy and grid stabilization.
Other examples of available parked EVs could come from transit station parking lots, retail stores, and apartment/condo complexes. Lithium and NextGen batteries are still expensive and underutilized – energy storage has great potential for key stakeholders out there.