Navigant Research Blog

Microgrids: The Golden Ticket for Advanced Batteries?

Brittany Gibson — June 10, 2012

Discussions about markets for advanced batteries – everything from electric toothbrushes to grid storage, and the various consumer-facing products in between – are some of the most interesting conversations we have at Pike Research.  End markets may exist somewhere, but the pathways these technologies will take remain unclear. Will they be lithium ion? Flow batteries?  We’re not sure. So, as we do with many cleantech technologies, we look to the U.S. military for guidance.

Microgrids have been floated as one pathway advanced batteries might take to achieve electricity grid integration.  In Texas, the Army’s Ft.  Bliss installation is now home to a 100 kW (20 kWh) lead acid battery system that is seamlessly integrated with the base’s microgrid.  The installation, and particularly the inclusion of the battery system, is as much about security for the U.S. military as it is about generating a return on investment.  The advantage of batteries is that they can address multiple applications – supply security, frequency regulation, and renewables integration.  While microgrids offer unique control over systems or islanding capabilities, batteries enhance these features and provide avenues to other revenue streams.

Utility procurement of advanced batteries may be a few years off while companies pursue a “wait-and-see” approach, but microgrids – either on islands, off-grid, or for niche applications – could provide a near-term testing ground.  Microgrids may ultimately be where advanced batteries meet the smart grid.  For example, the Jeju Island smart grid project in South Korea will integrate community and residential energy storage as part of a microgrid on the northeastern part of the island.

Pike Research’s upcoming report on advanced batteries for utility-scale applications broadens the discussion on the microgrid opportunity for advanced batteries.  We anticipate the discussion growing over the next year.

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