An Editorial Authored By Greg Chu
On November 13, 2012, MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) sponsored “Grid Energy Storage: Beyond Batteries”, a panel event to discuss grid-scale energy storage. After treating the audience of about 300 investors, entrepreneurs, technologists and thought leaders to a short harmonica solo, Eric Wesoff from Greentech Media proceeded to outline the landscape around grid-scale energy storage and moderate the panel around future directions in grid-scale energy storage.
Figure 1: Panel (left to right) Mike Lee, Morgan Stanley (at podium);
Eric Wesoff, Greentech Media; Prof Jay Whitacre, Aquion Energy;
Dr. Steve Crane, LightSail Energy; Abe Yokell, Rockport Capital
Partners; Haresh Kanath, EPRI
Wesoff overviewed current technologies, the complicated value chain which generates and delivers energy to end users, the cleantech investment climate, and the environmental /government mandated need for clean, renewable energy which can only be enabled by grid-scale energy storage.
Currently, grid scale energy storage is dominated by pumped hydro. “For grid applications, it’s all about cost per kilowatt hour” said, Abe Yokell, panelist and Partner at Rockport Capital Partners who foresees grid-scale energy storage for certain, specific use cases such as where local energy storage in dense urban environments is less expensive than running in new utility lines. Philip Gleckman, CTO of Areva Solar agreed “Grid Storage with batteries is not inevitable…Thermal storage is available costing one tenth of the best battery technology. Justin Raade, CEO of Halotechnics, Inc described how his company is working on grid-scale thermal storage as low as $25/kw-hr.
Indeed, two grid-scale energy storage companies were represented on the panel. Lightsail Energy of Berkeley, CA and Aquion Energy of Pittsburgh, PA shared their experiences as start-ups entering a heavily regulated, highly fractioned, risk averse environment.
Figure 3: Haresh Kanath, EPRI Figure 2: Dr. Steve Crane, LightSail Energy
Rounding out the panel was Haresh Kamath, Sr. Project Manager for EPRI. “While American utilities are greatly incented to “KTLO – Keep the Lights On” which has led to risk averse investing, Kamath & Rastler have described 10 specific business cases for grid-scale energy storage which have attracted attention from the venture capital and investment community. Kamath noted that for certain off-grid applications, the newer energy storage technologies, when paired with solar, have the potential to “leapfrog” the current grid which many have observed to be little changed over the past 100 years.
Mike Lee, Financial Advisor, on why Morgan Stanley sponsored the panel, “We like sponsoring these sorts of events in order to bring people together to facilitate growth in this community.” Another perspective was offered by Laurie Manning, volunteer with the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab “We have to look beyond our current economic crisis to greater environmental issues. Superstorm Sandy showed this. We need greater urgency before it’s too late.”
About The Author
Greg Chu is a member of the EcoGreen Group. He is interested in Energy Storage and has a deep background in Supply Chain Management.