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Batteries In the Works To Prop Up the Power Grid

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The power grid has seen little innovation in the past few decades, but lately battery companies have started to develop energy storage technologies meant to sit on the grid and help prepare the network for a buildout of renewable energy. Last week, lithium ion battery startup A123 Systems said it had installed a grid battery at a power plant owned by a utility in Southern California. This week battery company Saft and power product maker ABB say they are working on “the world’s first” high-voltage lithium-ion battery for the power grid.

Saft is contributing a 5.2 kilovolt (kV) battery and ABB is developing technology to control the voltage. The technology could supposedly help grids that have a significant amount of renewable energy sources (like wind and solar) that are intermittent, i.e. aren’t on all the time and have varying states. Another lithium-ion battery developer, Altair Nanotechnologies, said recently it has also made progress with its battery storage system for power grids.

There will surely be a market for such battery technology. Stabilizing power grids that have newly added clean power is a serious concern — according to a report from The Brattle Group, the national electricity grid could need a $2 trillion investment to maintain stability from the planned additional 40 gigawatts of clean energy generation by 2030.

According to Lux Research the market for a “smart power web” will reach $65 billion by 2013. The bulk of that smart power web will be made up by energy storage technology like batteries and alternative grid power, but will also include smart-metering hardware and software, networking technologies.