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Can Utility-Scale Batteries Rescue Intermittent Renewables? (Improvement, market shakeout, but no ‘silver bullet’)

By Robert Peltier -- March 10, 2010

All interconnected transmission and distribution (T&D) grids have one thing in common. Their operators must continually dispatch generators to keep the network’s supply and demand in balance at all times and to maintain its voltage and frequency within very tight tolerances.

The “simultaneity problem” is not shared by oil or natural gas or coal. It is a tough reality for electricity that Thomas Edison and countless inventors since him have tried to solve via affordable battery storage. 

So where are we today in terms of cost per kWh to use batteries to store power and, in the case of intermittent technologies, firm power? For utility scale battery systems, expect to pay between $1,000/kW and $4,000/kW, according to the Electricity Storage Association. The DOE’s optimistic assessment estimates those costs will drop to around $500/kW by 2012.…