From EVs to solar energy, innovations in energy storage are changing the game
If your smartphone battery has become a large share of your daily thoughts, just wait because the battery market is booming.
Electric utilities are using batteries to make electricity more reliable and more compatible with renewable energy sources. Also, dramatic advancements in battery technology have made the booming electric vehicle market possible.
Analysts value the world battery market at more than $100 billion and project it will grow more than 10% annually during the next five years. People need batteries for their phones, laptops, power tools, watches and electric vehicles, and they want them to last longer. They want them smaller. They want them cheaper. Researchers and entrepreneurs are busy meeting those demands.
EV SUPER BOWL ADS
Electric vehicles, which run on large, rechargeable batteries, are a leading example of the trend. Ten years ago, hardly any EVs were on the road. In 2020, EV sales hit 3 million, and now 10 million are on the road worldwide.
Six of this year’s Super Bowl ads featured electric vehicles. Manufacturers around the world plan to spend more than half-a-trillion dollars on EVs and batteries in the next eight years. Just in the U.S., 13 electric vehicle battery manufacturing plants are expected to open in the next five years.
This cycle of innovation is cutting battery costs too. The price of the most popular type of rechargeable battery is down more than 90% from 10 years ago.
BATTERIES AID RENEWABLES
Utility use of large batteries is adding efficiency and reliability to the nation’s electric grid. In 2019, the number of large-scale battery systems in the U.S. increased by 28%.
Electric utilities, including electric cooperatives, use these batteries in several ways. They can smooth voltage and frequency differences that damage equipment and affect power quality.
Batteries also store excess solar energy produced during the day when demand is low, and make that power available for use at night when demand is high.
Utility-scale battery capacity jumped 35% in 2020. By 2023, electric utilities will have increased battery capacity tenfold from 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
One especially innovative use of batteries occurred in 2020, when a heat wave strained California’s electric supply. The state’s energy manager asked businesses and homeowners with batteries to supply emergency power. More than 30,000 responded, including EV-charging providers.
Homeowners can supplement their electric service with their own backup batteries. Tesla and other companies make suitcase-sized batteries designed to hang on your wall for reserve power, in case of a storm or to pair with rooftop solar panels to store sun power for later use.
Innovators are also working on new types of batteries for everyday use. Low-cost, flexible power sources could be part of clothing or wristbands. Wearable electronics are a hot market, and innovators and investors see the potential.
Whether used for making electricity more reliable or a fun new gadget to track our fitness habits, battery technology will continue to play a major role in our future.
Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.