• Andrew Murphy

Grid Parity & Solar + Storage Market

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Through grid parity (when an alternative energy source can generate power at a levelized cost of electricity that is less than or equal to the price of power from the electrical grid.), solar power generation will pave the way for further development of the “solar-plus-storage” market. Energy storage offers one method of confronting the instability and intermittency of Solar Power caused by sensitivity to weather changes. Energy storage will stabilize generation, improve power quality, provide storage of excess generation, and help increase the grid’s consumption of renewable generation.

Over the past 10 years, the advancement of technology in Lithium Ion Batteries has caused drastic decreases in the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE). A simultaneous and significant drop (and expected continued decrease) in the cost of Solar Photovoltaic Cells means that Distributed Solar Power is now the cheapest energy production, consumption, and on demand option on the market. Not to mention it is non-hazardous to our environment, renewable, and provides real, personal independence from monopolistic utility

This all said, continued innovation in energy storage are needed due to the presence of toxic, heavy metals such as Cobalt and Lithium used in current cathode production. Organic materials are a promising alternative to currently used inorganic metals, something that Professor Thomas Baumgartner of York University are busy developing. “Organic electrode materials are considered to be extremely promising materials for sustainable batteries with high power capabilities,” he says.

Their latest breakthrough is the creation of a new carbon-based organic molecule that can replace the cobalt now used in cathodes. The new material addresses the shortcomings of the inorganic material while still maintaining performance.“[These] Electrodes made with organic materials can make large-scale manufacturing, recycling, or disposing of these elements more environmentally friendly,” says Baumgartner. “The goal is to create sustainable batteries that are stable and have equally as good, if not better capacity."

Another alternative is All Solid State Batteries (ASSBs), which have been in the works, and heavily invested in, since the mid 1990's. “Solid-state is a platform that allows things like metallic lithium as an anode,” Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell says. “That’s perhaps the most direct pathway to significantly increasing the energy.” "ASSBs will not have liquid electrolytes that are susceptible to thermal runaway, so the batteries should be inherently safer. And because today’s lithium-ion products require costly thermal control systems, a safer battery pack is a lower-cost battery pack,” Campbell said.

The only issue with continued investment in new battery technology is the capacity necessitated by demand. The United States simply does not have the needed demand for large scale ASSB or organic material li-ion battery production. This is where the consumer, and government subsidies, come into the picture. With further investment from the end consumer, bolstered by further federal and state incentive programs for renewable energy adoption we can expect cheaper, more effective, safer, and environmentally friendly energy storage options.

Reference: “Phosphaviologen‐Based Pyrene‐Carbon Nanotube Composites for Stable Battery Electrodes” by Dr. Colin R. Bridges, Dr. Monika Stolar and Prof. Dr. Thomas Baumgartner, 19 December 2019, Batteries & Supercaps.

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