The Race For The "Holy Grail" Of Renewables

Authored by Irina Slav via,

In February, AES Energy’s Escondido battery storage facility in California was hailed as the largest one to date, with a capacity of 30 MW/120 MWh. Now, Tesla is building a bigger one—100 MW/129 MWh—in Australia.

On the face of it, it’s a race for the bigger battery storage system. But there’s much more to it than that.

The race is on for increasingly reliable, grid-scale, quick-to-install energy storage solutions that will make the shift to all-renewable power much more realistic. In this, factors such as renewable-friendly regulation and integration of storage systems with renewable power generation capacity can tip the energy transformation scales.

California is one of the places to be if you’re a renewables fan. Its authorities have ambitious plans in this regard, eventually hoping to replace all fossil-fuel generation capacity with renewables. Wholly reliable grid-scale storage systems are crucial for this strategy, and they are becoming increasingly popular in the state.

Unfortunately, the initiative to make the 100-percent renewable plan a law fell through. Unions, worried about possible job losses, pulled their support. Legislators themselves tweaked the bill, so its goal is now to produce 100-percent greenhouse-gas-free energy. The debate about the feasibility of the plan and how fast it could become a reality continues. California is a cautionary tale for other ambitious clean energy proponents. 

Meanwhile, the leaders of the battery pack are expanding. AES recently teamed up with Siemens on a joint venture, Fluence, focusing specifically on energy storage system development. Fluence will deal in AES’ Advancion and Siemens’ Siestorage platforms, the companies said, adding it will target the development of new energy storage capacity across 160 countries worldwide.

Tesla is looking in another direction. It already has the largest portfolio of completed energy storage projects globally, at 300 MWh. What it is looking for now is integrating future storage systems with wind and solar electricity producers.

When Tesla said it had won a deal for the construction of the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery storage facility in Australia, it noted that the deal involves partnering with local wind power producer, Neoen, which will supply the battery complex with electricity.

At the same time, AES is working mainly with traditional utilities to supply them with energy storage capacity, focusing on constantly improving the energy density and efficiency of its arrays. Tesla’s all-renewables focus is well documented, and now it could give it the lead in the energy storage race.

Earlier this month, Tesla closed another partnership, with wind power leader Vestas, to develop integrated wind power-energy storage solutions. The Danish company announced earlier this year that it has big plans for energy storage, with Chairman Bert Nordberg telling Reuters that the company had 3.2 billion euro (US$3.84 billion) in cash and no debt, so it could afford some good investments. So far this year, Vestas has invested in almost a dozen battery storage makers.

Energy storage, according to AES’ CEO Andres Gluski, is “the Holy Grail for renewables.” It is the key to the renewables kingdom of the future, eliminating the adverse effects of renewable power’s intermittency. Integrating this Holy Grail with the clean energy producers is the next step. Tesla and other battery makers have already made it. Yet staying with traditional utilities might not be a bad strategy either: it will be some time before renewables become the predominant energy source in the world.


dasein211 El Vaquero Fri, 09/22/2017 - 13:34 Permalink

Solid state alkaline batteries are coming. Attaching these batteries by cars to the grid and having the cars and the grid communicate on a huge scale will negate the need for about half of that large storage and that's just if cars have batteries. Adding a battery pack to a house that communicates with the grid will make large scale storage unecessary. The utility companies know the jig is up. Relying on them like relying on public utilities in Florida will put you at a disadvantage.

In reply to by El Vaquero

TheAnswerIs42 dasein211 Fri, 09/22/2017 - 15:27 Permalink

Currently the batteries can handle 400 recharge cycles, but that should improve....One thing you need to understand about current battery technology (including solid state alkaline), is that it cannot follow Moore's Law.So without a major breakthrough in basic physics, batteries can never scale to provide grid level storage.I hate using absolutes, but that is the sorry truth.  

In reply to by dasein211

leeteam Volkodav Fri, 09/22/2017 - 14:46 Permalink

Thorium molten salt reactors, more abundant fuel source, thorium cannot be weaponized, more efficient,  less waste, and walk away safe.Concepts & Prototypes: Two Next-Gen Nukes Nuclear power is the most efficient emissions-free energy available. But can it be made safe? Two new reactor designs do just that Kalee Thompson June 27, 2011…Building A Safer, Cleaner Nuclear Reactor Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie are reviving the nuclear dream Paul Kvinta May 19, 2015… The Science 

In reply to by Volkodav

crazytechnician tmosley Fri, 09/22/2017 - 16:52 Permalink

There is going to be very large intermittent surplus's of renewable electrical energy available at some point. Guess what will be the storage for this surplus ? The surplus will be used for the intermittent mining of cryptocurrency. Producers will be able to actually monetise their surplus in realtime and sell the currency into the market at times of low demand. This is what will load-balance the future decentralised renewable electrical grid.

In reply to by tmosley

quesnay Fri, 09/22/2017 - 13:10 Permalink

No such storage solution exists. There is a very good solar power storage solution of "sun/evaporation water and gravity" otherwise know as "hydro power", but it requires dams and massive space and the environmental priests have decided this is unacceptable.Basically anything that actually works is unacceptable.

quesnay taketheredpill Fri, 09/22/2017 - 16:12 Permalink

EV cars also mean we will need more electricity, negating EV cars 'storage' potential.Imagine EV cars require 10% more electricity than we are using today and EV batteries can store 10% electricity that is generated. In that scenario EV cars storage are net neutral as their storage potential is negated by the extra electricity usage they require. Each EV car would have to be able to store significantly more electricity than they use in order to be a meaningful storage option.

In reply to by taketheredpill

aloha_snakbar Fri, 09/22/2017 - 13:18 Permalink

No such thing; "grid-scale" renewables, such as electric, still dont exist without oil...Here is a radical thought; everyone get off the couch and ride a bicycle...

Boris Gudonov Fri, 09/22/2017 - 13:20 Permalink

Only technologically and economically illiterate people can read an article like this and not laugh out loud, or alternatively cry at the sheer stupidity of it all.  Good fucking lord. 

OverTheHedge So It Goes Fri, 09/22/2017 - 14:23 Permalink

Someone posted here the other day about supercapacitors, which seem to be much better than batteries. From what I understand, which is limited, they take seconds to recharge, last for thousands of years (yes, exactly!), and don't use any rare earth weirdo elements. A Chinese company is running a bus that can recharge in 60 seconds, and then drive 10km. A car would probably be able to go slightly further. Very new, sexy technology using graphene.

In reply to by So It Goes

Boris Gudonov Fri, 09/22/2017 - 13:23 Permalink

Elon Musk = the greatest con man in modern human history.  Madoff is a close second.  The only thing Tesla makes money on is government subsidies  for building an economically uncompetitive product that has been around for over 100 years and rubes think it's "modern".  Shit. 

Is-Be Boris Gudonov Sat, 09/23/2017 - 00:13 Permalink

Elon Musk is guilty only of supporting centralised, chargeable energy technology. Electric cars beat steampunk internal combustion energy. My son has one.However, cold fusion is real and, with support, your car could be produced with a lifetime supply of fuel.The fuel would last longer than the bearings or the bodywork. But where is the profit for Musk in that?

In reply to by Boris Gudonov

asteroids Fri, 09/22/2017 - 13:23 Permalink

I've been to the bottom of one of the deepest mines on earth. It's HOT down there. Dig deeper, it gets hotter. Heat, steam, turbine, electricity. If I could dig a few miles under my house, I would.

cheech_wizard Fri, 09/22/2017 - 13:36 Permalink

So once again, mad scientists will attempt to break the second law of thermodynamics.Because (wait for it) ... entropy.The best chance (for renewables) is some form of biobattery.    

baldknobber Dragon HAwk Fri, 09/22/2017 - 14:04 Permalink

I built a beautiful high volume pipeline that took fresh clean cold water from the Rockies and sent it to places that needed it. I gave it to the people for free.  You dumbasses named it the Colorado River and have been fucking it up ever since.                                                                                                                         God

In reply to by Dragon HAwk