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Energy storage: the hunt for a solution heats up

It is the holy-grail for energy market innovators and has the power to completely revolutionise the business. But how far away are we from an economically viable solution? And what could the consequences be? One myth about energy storage is that we are lightyears away from the technological breakthrough that will make large-scale storage viable. In reality, the technologies that will make the difference have already been discovered and they are advancing, albeit gradually. Consider the smart phone. Although it might not always feel like it, your mobile phone can do an awful lot more for an awful lot longer than any model released five or ten years ago (excluding, of course, the Nokia 3310 and its near perpetual battery life). In 2015, Moody’s that battery prices had declined by more 50% in the five years from 2010. Their research concluded that “Commercial and industrial use of lithium-ion batteries for energy storage could become economically viable in the next three to five years if the decline in battery prices persists.” The people most looking forward to the widespread availability of energy storage facilities are renewable energy enthusiasts. Using the sun or the wind has one obvious economic advantage over other forms of generation – it is free. But there is also one obvious drawback, what do you do when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow? There the technology falls down. The ability to store this energy efficiently would solve this problem making renewable energy more efficient and driving investment in the field.

Tesla Powerwall in Australia

Tesla is one of big name companies making waves in the energy storage field. Their Powerwall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or when utility rates are low, and then powers your home in the evening when the energy is most needed. In Tesla fashion, the product is sleek and stylish and fits into the current grid system without much fuss. Australia was one of the first countries in the world to get the Powerwall battery storage system with a state-owned energy company now investigating ways to integrate the units into the existing electricity supply. Tesla are by no means the only operators offering this technology and with other manufacturers like Samsung, General Electric and German-owned Sonnenbatterie all entering the market they could face some stiff competition in years to come. Video courtesy of Reuters Most of the solutions to the energy storage problem so far have been incorporated into the existing power supply and energy grid. However, this new battery made in Chile claims that it could allow some households to live 'off-grid'.

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