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US DOE eyes long-term energy storage "Earthshot"

14 July 2021 Amena Saiyid

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is challenging companies to find ways to slash the cost of grid-scale, long-term energy storage by the end of this decade under its "Energy Earthshot" initiative program.

DOE's goal is to reduce the levelized cost of storage by 90% below 2020 levels to $0.05/kWh to make it "available, anytime, anywhere" to support any type of clean energy source.

"Achieving this levelized cost target would facilitate commercial viability for storage across a wide range of uses including: meeting load during periods of peak demand, grid preparation for fast charging of electric vehicles and applications to ensure reliability of critical services," the DOE wrote in its December 2020 roadmap for storage.

The average energy capacity cost of utility-scale battery storage in the US has rapidly decreased nearly 70% from $2,152 per kWh in 2015 to $625/kWh in 2018, according to an October 2020 report by the US Energy Information Administration.

The Energy Earthshot initiative, which launched in June, is the agency's attempt to accelerate breakthroughs of more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions by the end of the decade.

At the time, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm issued a call for "all hands-on-deck innovation, collaboration, and acceleration" for scaling up production, storage, delivery, and end-use of clean hydrogen in the US to make it affordable.

Whenever, wherever it's needed

Now Granholm has singled out energy storage for DOE's second Earthshot initiative after hydrogen, for which $51 million in grants were issued last week.

"We're going to bring hundreds of gigawatts of clean energy onto the grid over the next few years, and we need to be able to use that energy wherever and whenever it's needed," Granholm said in a 14 July announcement.

Energy storage remains key to the US goal of providing cheap and clean renewable power as part of President Joe Biden's goal of decarbonizing the American power sector by 2035.

DOE defines long-term storage as systems that can store energy for more than 10 hours at a time.

Cheaper and more efficient storage will make it easier to capture and store clean energy for use when energy generation is unavailable or lower than demand -- for instance, so solar-generated power can be used at night or nuclear energy generated during times of low demand can be used when demand increases.

Falling costs driving grid storage

The global battery storage project pipeline grew from 43.5 GW to 51.3 GW in the first quarter of 2021, as planned installations in the US increased in both number and size, according to an IHS Markit analysis.

"Falling battery costs have been a key enabler of grid energy storage," another IHS Markit analysis of battery storage in North America concluded.

But IHS also pointed out that there are no clear winners when it comes to the technology required for long-duration batteries that exceed 10 hours. In contrast, batteries are competitively providing solutions for short-term storage that lasts under an hour. For storage between 2-4 hours, batteries are starting to compete, the report added.

Hydrogen, hydropower, and compressed air are the most viable technologies for storing energy over lengthy periods, according to Omar Guerra and Josh Eichman, researchers at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), studying the value of seasonal energy storage technologies.

NREL's Renewable Electricity Futures Study estimated that 120 GW of storage would be needed across the continental United States by 2050, when the scenario imagined a future in which 80% of electricity will come from renewable resources.

The DOE said the long-duration initiative will consider all types of technologies -- whether electrochemical, mechanical, thermal, chemical carriers, or any combination that has the potential to meet the necessary duration and cost targets for grid flexibility.

Currently, DOE said, the US has about 24 GW of storage capacity, with pumped-storage hydropower the largest source of long-duration energy storage on the grid, while lithium-ion batteries remain the primary source of new technology deployed on the grid in the US, providing shorter-duration storage capabilities.

Jason Burwen, CEO of the US Energy Storage Association, welcomed the DOE's Energy Earthshot focus on grid-scale energy storage, which he said is "a critical solution for stabilizing our electric infrastructure in the face of climate change-driven extreme weather and a fast growing American industry."

Burwen noted that the agency's announcement came the same day that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported out on a bipartisan basis the Energy Infrastructure Act, which would provide $505 million for long-duration energy storage and another $3 billion to promote domestic storage technology manufacturing facilities, such as Eos Energy Storage in Edison, New Jersey, where Granholm chose to announce the initiative.

Posted 14 July 2021 by Amena Saiyid, Senior Climate and Energy Research Analyst


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