A Battery Tipping Point?

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Momentum Builds Behind Lithium Ion Battery Technology

Propelled by rapidly falling costs, lithium ion battery technology is likely to dominate the grid-scale energy storage market for at least the next five years, concludes an EPRI report.

Although conventional wisdom holds that lithium ion technology is not ideal for many large-scale grid applications, it has a significant head start over competing technologies with respect to grid deployment. Lithium ion costs have fallen dramatically in recent years, driven by investments in the consumer electronics and electric vehicle industries. Manufacturers of lithium ion batteries tend to be large companies with strong balance sheets and credibility for warranties and post-deployment support. Other technologies are more expensive, less mature, and are often developed and produced by startup companies that may have more constrained access to capital.

These factors “will mean that even those technologies and products with theoretically superior performance to lithium ion may lose out in the near term,” the report says. Indeed, several large-scale, lithium ion grid projects are being deployed in Hawaii, Southern California, and the United Kingdom.

In the long term, other technologies may be able to outcompete lithium ion in certain grid applications such as long-duration storage greater than 6–8 hours.

The authors add that many challenges still need to be addressed before widespread grid deployment of lithium ion systems. These include making components more reliable, developing an industry-wide recycling program, and resolving fire suppression requirements.

Artwork by Kirk Anderson