Mixed Greens: A battery-powered peak solution? | RenewEconomy

Mixed Greens: A battery-powered peak solution?

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New claims lithium-ion power storage could challenge nat gas in peaking power by 2016; Tesla faces wider losses.

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Natural gas may face a challenge to its status as the perfect peaking power solution — not to mention the perfect partner for intermittent renewable resources — with the claim this week by A123 Systems’ CEO that falling prices for lithium-ion batteries will make power-storage systems competitive with natural gas as a source of electricity during periods of high demand by 2016. “In general, batteries will come down by about half in price from 2010 to 2015,” David Vieau told Bloomberg on Monday. Vieau says that improvements in battery chemistry and manufacturing will drive down prices and boost shelf life, making lithium-ion batteries a viable replacement for gas.

According to the report, A123 has shipped more than 90MW of its battery storage systems — which can provide anywhere between 10 kilowatts to 500 megawatts of power within milliseconds, and for up to eight hours at a time — to be used by utilities instead of gas-fired peaker plants for meeting short periods of peak demand, sometimes only a few hours a year. Bloomberg says that US utilities owned by AES Corp, Sempra Energy and Edison International have invested the technology. According to Vieau, the grid business now makes up 40-50 per cent of A123’s sales. The challenge now, he told Bloomberg, “is to demonstrate that they last 10 to 20 years.”

Gearing down

Elon Musk’s EV outfit Tesla Motors may have seen its loss widen in 2011’s final quarter as it wound down production and sales of $109,000 Roadster electric cars, Bloomberg reports. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for a loss, excluding some items, of 62 cents a share. On that basis, says Bloomberg, Tesla reported a fourth-quarter loss of 47 cents a share in 2010’s fourth quarter. The company is due to release quarterly results on Thursday.

Tesla’s next great EV hope, the Model S sedan, is expected to go into production in mid-2012 and, with a base model priced at $57,400, is intended to expand the California-based company’s sales volume. “We believe Tesla is at the cusp of becoming a self-sustaining company, in terms of revenue, with a crisp execution of the Model S launch,” said Amir Rozwadowski, a New York-based analyst with Barclays Capital, in an interview. “A lot of the company’s future success will be determined by a successful launch of Model S. Investors are focused on that.”

But auto sector analyst Alan Baum, principal of Baum & Associates, says that a widening of Tesla’s quarterly loss would affirm the views of the EV-maker’s critics: “The people who think electric vehicles are not ready for prime time are going to say yet again that Tesla is a failure,” Baum said.

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2 Comments
  1. Steve martin 9 years ago

    The Tesla car shows that electric cars can be fast and comparable with gasoline powered vehicles. However not many people can buy/use this vehicle – people need more practical cars. So perhaps like the original Volkswagen design strategy – build a car for the masses and it can look and feel nice…AND what happened to the “electric car” from GM (saturn division). Why is that all silent…..hmmm

  2. michael r james 9 years ago

    A123’s website is typically a bit opaque but I think I am correct in noting that, while the term “lithium ion” is correct, it really refers to LiFePO4 batteries, ie. lithium-iron. The previous drawbacks of this kind of battery (compared to the lithium-cobalt batteries used in laptops etc) have been solved by A123’s nano-electrode technology.

    The point is that different applications have different requirements. I understand that LiFePO4 is being developed especially where very large, static storage is required. Where weight is not a consideration, and where reliability and lifespan are more important. And of course the use of materials cheaper (and less toxic) than cobalt or other expensive materials used by some other kinds of battery technologies.

    It has been predicted that very large battery installations are attractive to electricity arbitragers–selling power to the grid at peak demand (thus peak spot prices which can be many fold higher than baseload power) which has historically been provided by gas turbine (which can be ramped up and down more quickly than most other power generators).

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