Can Lithium Ion Batteries Provide Grid Storage?

At least one observer from last month’s Energy Storage North America doesn’t think so:

“Lithium ion was not fundamentally designed for grid scale storage,” said Andrew Chung, a partner at Khosla Ventures, during a panel at the conference. “Even with the Gigafactory, the cost won’t come down enough.”

Chung’s skepticism essentially revolved around the three complaints most often associated with lithium batteries: they cost too much, they can become a safety hazard and they have a limited lifespan. Utilities and commercial building owners want something that will last twenty years flawlessly.

battery-storageOthers at the conference of course disagreed, noting that no new technology has managed to step in and fill the void like lithium ion, which covers a range of technologies. Still, it’s encouraging to see some large-scale flow batteries coming on-line to handle bulk storage duties, albeit still at the pilot-type scale.

Maybe lithium ion can’t work in the long haul, but the article points to some good news for batteries competing with other grid resources. Basically, if your battery can deliver service for four hours, it can be competitive in the utility and grid operator markets.  As prices come down generally and investment continues to flow, I think the future will only be bright for grid-scale storage, whatever the technology of choice may be.


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