Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Building the Business Case for Energy Storage

A novel software tool could make it far easier to bring new energy storage technologies to market.

  • June 14, 2013

If we’re ever going to run the world on intermittent renewable energy, we’re going to need to change the power grid, making it smarter and more adaptable, extending transmission lines to connect far flung wind farms, and adding something that we only have a very small scale right now—the ability to store electricity generated when the sun is shining for use when it isn’t.

New energy storage technologies will be key to making this last part happen (see “A Solution to Solar Power Intermittency,” “Wind Turbines, Battery Included, Can Keep Power Supplies Stable” and “Ambri’s Better Battery”). But so, too, might software.

A new tool developed by the Electric Power Research Institute could make it far easier to make a business case for novel technologies, helping to bring them to market, especially at early stages when economies of scale have yet to bring down their costs.

Batteries can provide many different services to the grid, such as helping regulate voltage levels, delaying the need to install new transmission lines by evening out spikes in power or demand, and storing power generated by renewable energy in times of low demand for use when demand, and prices are higher. The problem is that each of these applications on its own often isn’t enough to pay for battery systems.

The new software will allow companies and utilities to understand how a given storage system could perform multiple functions, creating multiple streams of revenue that together allow the owner of the energy storage system to make a profit. It also does an analysis of which revenue streams are something that can actually be captured, given existing regulations. 

Early case studies that use the new system suggests that even existing battery systems could be profitable. The tool could provide a clearer way to bring new technologies to market, and convince investors to fund development. 

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