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Energy Storage for a Peaking Plant, Not Instead of It

June 20, 2018 By Phil Carroll in

Energy storage prices are coming down and the technology is improving. So could the day be on the horizon when batteries replace an electric utility’s peaking plant?

One industry expert believes it’s not an either/or issue.

Source: National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

“That question comes up a lot,” said Eric Gebhardt, vice president and strategic technology officer at GE Power, who was asked about it at the recent 2018 EIA Energy Conference.

“There are so many existing peaking plants out there right now,” said Gebhardt, who sees potential in adding energy storage to those plants.

“The batteries handle the faster increase,” he said, which allows the gas turbines to come up at a slower rate.

That’s just one of the potential uses for energy storage, a field where Gebhardt noted that “capabilities are increasing very quickly.”

“Energy storage has dramatic capabilities. And energy storage has got a significant learning curve,” he said.

“It’s going to be more of a player in the overall electricity ecosystem going forward.”

At the moment, lithium-ion is the leading technology. While GE Power and others are looking at various other contenders, Gebhardt said that “for the foreseeable near-term future, lithium-ion has a dramatic advantage over the other technologies right now.”

“There are other types of batteries out there,” he said, citing flow batteries as an example. In a flow battery, liquid electrolyte flows through a cell, reacting with electrodes inside the cell and producing electricity.

Promising though it might be, Gebhardt noted one very stark reality: “The cost point on flow is higher than it is for lithium-ion today.”