Government funding for energy storage technology is creating serious returns on investment around the world with distinctly focused industries taking shape in Europe, North America, and Asia.

633 advanced energy storage projects encompassing 865 separate systems are currently in operation or under development worldwide, according to Navigant Research’s “Energy Storage Tracker 3Q13.” The industry added 38 new projects during the first half of 2013.

Even though global energy storage markets are growing fast, up from 562 projects at the end of 2012, they remain fragmented in both technologies in use and applications in each region. France’s Alstom leads all vendors with 19% of total market share, closely followed by Germany’s Voith with 16%, and America’s Gridflex with 13%

Distinct Growth, Distinct Benefits

The rapid spread of advanced energy storage is creating distinct economic and environmental benefits in each major market, and in some regions may even help developing countries leapfrog fossil fuel based energy systems.

For instance, Navigant notes Asian countries are focused on developing advanced battery systems with the intent to export them to other nations, while Europe is directing investment in order to help integrate a larger share of renewable energy, and North America is characterized by innovation and technological diversity.

While different regional focuses are creating different benefits, all markets seem to be succeeding. “In terms of regional capacity, Asia Pacific continues to be the world leader in deployed capacity, with almost 1.2 GW representing 47% of global capacity,” said Anissa Dehamma of Navigant. “In terms of installed projects, however, North America leads with 115 deployments.”

For nations with growing electrical demand but immature energy systems, energy storage could pay even greater dividends. Research in developed economies, such as America’s CalCharge advanced battery initiative or NY-BEST smart grid commercialization center, is increasingly being applied in developing countries.

A white paper from the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) recently found that energy storage could combat energy poverty by serving as both a hub for off-grid energy systems based on distributed renewables, and as decentralized grid backup in growing communities without sufficient transmission or electrical access. ARE based this outlook on case studies from India, Bangladesh, Jordan, Peru, and Mozambique.

Energy Storage At Utility Scale

But moving beyond theoretical applications, the energy storage industry’s growth is starting to turn into utility-scale applications in the real world. The largest European energy storage project yet, a 6-megawatt battery designed to store wind and solar power with a 10 megawatt-hour (MWh) capacity, was recently announced in the United Kingdom.

Not to be outdone, Japan’s Hokkaido Electric Utility recently announced it was investing $200 million to build a 60 MWh battery project. Once online in 2015, the system will store energy from solar and wind farms to power communities across Hokkaido Island, which is isolated from the mainland’s grid system.

Notable smaller-scale projects that use innovative approaches also popping up across the world, such as the GM-ABB project featuring used Chevy Volt batteries or Toyota’s effort to convert recycled hybrid batteries into energy storage systems for its Japanese dealerships.

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