According to a recent USA Today Green Tech Series spotlight on energy innovations, the so-called "battle for the battery" is intensifying as many companies look to expand solar power installations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and satiate increasing demand.
Many major companies, start-ups and universities are working tirelessly on developing batteries with advanced storage capabilities. For solar power systems, storage is key. It is what enables a consumer to power a refrigerator or power a laptop at night.
"It's the dawn of the energy-storage age," Bill Radvak, president of American Vanadium, tells the source. Radvak notes there was no major battery market three years ago, but that is changing. Energy storage could be what pushes renewables into the mainstream.
Energy storage trends
A recent GBI Research report reveals that, in 2011, the global energy storage market was estimated at $39.5 billion. By 2016, that figure is expected to increase by 9 percent and may be worth $62 billion. This growth is supported by the expansion of smart grid infrastructure, growing energy demand worldwide and the deployment of renewable technologies such as solar power installations, an increased investment by governments through grants and funding as well as constant technological developments.
GBI research also estimates an intense expansion of more complex batteries such as lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride through the year 2020, seeing a 119 percent increase as markets for laptops and smartphones take hold, according to a Global Business Intelligence study.
Subsequently, the global market for storing power exclusively from solar panels is predicted to expand at a break-neck pace. As indicated by IMS Research, the market will shift from just $200 million in 2012 to more than $19 billion by 2017. Prices for solar panels have plummeted by 60 percent since 2011, encouraging growth. U.S. solar electric capacity has soared by 76 percent in just this past year, according to USA Today.
This isn't just being seen in the United States, but around the world. Energy storage and solar power installations go hand-in-hand. Recently, Los Angeles – which requires 33 percent of its electricity to come from renewables by 2020 – recently mandated its major utility company to ensure a percentage of capacity is derived from energy storage. China's five-year plan calls for 5 percent of all electricity to be stored by 2020.
Germany began subsidizing homeowner purchases of batteries intended to store energy derived from solar panels.
"Following the introduction of an energy storage subsidy in Germany, global installations of PV storage systems are forecast to grow by more than 100 percent a year on average over the next five years, to reach almost 7 gigawatts in 2017," according to IMS Research. "Germany will account for nearly 70 percent of storage installed in residential PV systems worldwide in 2013."
Alliances are forming
In April, Markus Hoehner and Bryan Ekus coâ€‹-founded the International Battery and Energy Storage Alliance (IBESA) to support and enable cooperation between solar energy production, electrical energy storage and smart grid technologies.
"A strong, industry-wide alliance of global players like the IBESA is crucial in order to unify the fragmented electrical energy storage and smart grid markets, as well as to prepare and sustainably position them for the future," said Hoehner, CEO, EuPD Research.
According to the IBESA, there is huge potential in the development of intelligent power networks and cost-effective energy storage systems. The mission of the IBESA is to provide resources, intelligence, market information and economic support to bolster the connection of renewable energy systems in the photovoltaic branch with the appropriate storage technologies.
"The international alliance is based on cooperation between various branches and the exchange between IPVEA and new IBESA members," added Ekus, managing director of IPVEA. "Our established goal is to promote the photovoltaics and electrical energy storage market and provide real benefits for our member companies."