Based on the projections contained in the MIT study, some analysts argue that various types of storage technologies could be viable for grid-scale use by 2030.
The installation costs for lithium ion batteries are projected to drop to between $145 and $480 per kilowatt hour by 2030, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. Meanwhile, flow batteries will cost between $108 per kilowatt hour and $560 per kilowatt hour, although there are companies already claiming that they can install them more cheaply. Chiang has backed the founding of a start-up focusing on sulphur flow batteries, which could reach costs as low as $10 per kilowatt hour.
Compressed air energy storage systems cost as little as $50 per kilowatt hour, although costs can vary considerably depending on site specifics. Other technologies, including storing energy as heat, also come in well below the $150 target cost that would be required to make renewables plus storage competitive.
Writing on Vox, David Roberts’ conclusion is upbeat. “Storage is rapidly evolving, diversifying, and falling in cost, to the point that wind and solar power plants coupled with storage are beginning to compete directly with fossil fuel power plants on cost,” he wrote.
“That’s only going to accelerate as both renewables and storage get cheaper,” he continued. “Providing all of US power, all day every day, will require oversizing renewables and installing an enormous amount of storage, but if they get cheap enough, that’s what we’ll do.”
Jordan Smith is a freelance journalist and translator covering issues related to energy, the environment, and politics. His work has appeared on the independent news site Opposing Views, and at the Canadian Labour Institute.