While most industries are stalling major projects and investments, the alternative energy storage industry is embarking on a busy expansion spree. The lustre this industry promises is too bright to be eclipsed by meltdowns. Investments in technologies such as flywheels and fuel cells are on the rise. Additionally, venture capitalists and government agencies have shown great interest in the potential of alternative energy storage.
The main purpose of alternative energy storage technology is to replace conventional batteries and thus offer as many opportunities as the current conventional battery market. In 2008, the traditional secondary battery market was worth approximately $30 billion globally, while alternative energy storage solutions occupied less than 1% of this share. With the recent boom in renewable energy, the need for cleaner storage technologies has become more pressing than ever. The biggest challenge faced by the renewable energy sector is the lack of efficient storage mechanisms; therefore the alternative energy storage market is expected to grow substantially.
Coming into 2009, the limited availability of credit for investment into the research and development of alternative energy storage solutions coupled with falling oil and gas prices might inhibit the growth of this sector. However, environmental concerns and energy security are expected to be major drivers of the market, despite the economic downturn. Moreover, with renewable energy generation such as wind or solar being intermittent in nature, storage of energy helps balance the load during peak demand. It also helps stabilize the transmission and distribution grid.
It is not just alternative storage that is showing promises. Energy storage as a whole offers a strong growth potential. Increased demand for hybrid and electric vehicles has stimulated growth in the lithium-ion battery market. Frost & Sullivan estimates the electric and hybrid vehicle market to reach $2 billion by 2014, and the lithium-ion battery market is expected to grow right along with it. In general, the renewable energy market seems well-equipped to withstand the current recession.
Despite the potential and advantages that alternative energy storage holds, it still has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream. Nowhere in the near future can the industry produce clean storage solutions that are as efficient, cost-effective, and advantageous as traditional batteries. Much technological advancement needs to be made in order to have alternative energy storage solutions that lack the negative features of batteries, yet do not compromise any of the benefits. Another disadvantage is that alternative energy storage solutions can not be universally used as batteries. The nature of each technology limits its usage in specific applications and end-user markets. Its potential lies in creating niche solutions for specialized applications. This could be a major stumbling block for massive popularization of green energy storage.
"What is interesting is not in the masses among which these technologies do not take hold, but the niches where interest has mushroomed," says Malavika Tohani, Programme Manager, Power Supplies & Batteries, Frost & Sullivan. "Owing to the vast potential this industry holds, manufacturers and investors have their eyes focused on alternative energy storage solutions all through the recession and beyond. This is where the future lies."
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GIL 2009: Europe
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