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Can battery technology keep up with solar energy’s bright future?

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Solar power is a promising — some say an inevitable — source of energy for the future. But what happens when clouds roll in or the sun goes down?

The above infographic, from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, shines a light on the answer: solar batteries. While photovoltaic systems have become cheaper, with installation costs falling by 60 percent over the past 10 years, solar panels can’t store energy for use after dark or on overcast days.

Batteries offer one storage solution, and the sector is growing. Experts project that by 2040, the market for solar and wind energy storage will be valued at US$250 billion. That said, engineers are still working to develop the utility-scale batteries we’ll need to make widespread solar power a reality.

The future of solar power, and its promised benefits such as mitigating climate change, will depend on how well — and how quickly — battery storage can ramp up to scale. View Ensia homepage

Add Your Comments
  • George Donart Oct. 21st, 2017
    Pricing carbon will increase incentives to develop and install more kWh's of storage.
  • Ned Ford Jan. 2nd, 2018
    This article starts with a pretty bad error. U.S. solar generation in 2015 was 0.94%, not .005%. In 2016 it was 1.38% of total U.S. electric supply. Part of the problem might be the difference between total utility solar generation and total including rooftop solar, a value which EIA reports separately. The other part might be a simple error in converting fractions to percentages.

    But the more important point is that utility scale solar is now cheaper than wholesale generation from natural gas, coal or nuclear. That doesn't change the picture for rooftop solar advocates a whole lot, but it makes a huge difference for utility ownership of solar. A recent request for bids by Xcel, based in Colorado, saw a lot of bids below three cents per KWh. That is so far below the median wholesale price that the Federal tax subsidy for solar can be eliminated and solar will still be competitive.

    And it's getting better than that for wind, and for clean energy in general. This is a tipping point, and there is a long way for wind and solar to get cheaper.

    Storage won't be needed until the regional grid is about 50% renewable. The market won't create a storage price until that happens. When it does, current storage is able to provide what we need, but it will probably be cheaper then than now.
  • Lizzie May. 16th, 2018
    MIT has invented a saltwater battery that can be ued to store electricity from renewable sources.
  • abelardo flores Jun. 1st, 2018
    Is very interesant and if have some information about the development to storage batteries lithium to PV systems and also who are the best supplier.
    thank you
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