Traditional pumped storage accounts for the vast majority of energy storage capacity in use today. Although most active storage projects are utilizing decades-old pumped hydro storage technologies, the industry has entered a new period of innovation as a number of market players invest considerable resources to develop emerging technologies such as advanced batteries, compressed air energy storage (CAES), flywheels, and thermal storage. According to a recent tracker report from Pike Research, newer technologies, including advanced forms of pumped storage, account for 12% of all energy storage projects announced as of the fourth quarter of 2011, in terms of capacity.
Overall, the cleantech market intelligence firm finds that nearly 600 energy storage projects, representing 152 gigawatts of capacity, have been announced or deployed worldwide. The last decade has seen a surge of new project activity, particularly using new technologies.
“Although traditional pumped storage is still the clear winner in terms of capacity, it is telling that the new technologies such as batteries, CAES, thermal storage, flywheels, and new pumped storage, such as seawater and closed-loop systems, have such a large share of the activity in the market,” says research analyst Anissa Dehamna. “While the industry still faces a variety of challenges, including technology development and the need to reduce costs, energy storage is gaining increased momentum in the global marketplace.”
The need for data tracking deployed and announced projects is especially acute in the energy storage sector because the market, though dynamic, is still immature. Three key criticisms are commonly leveled at the energy storage sector: market activity is overstated (i.e., projects have been announced but have not come online); energy storage is too expensive; and the market would not exist at all without government intervention.