Over the past year, energy companies have been steadily planning for the development of battery storage facilities, to support their renewable energy operations. But with the shift to green, the need for immediate investment in battery storage is clearer now than ever. With several developments planned for the next year and beyond, the battery sector is expected to grow significantly over the next decade
At present, one of the biggest concerns about the development of renewables is the intermittent nature of these energy sources. Solar and wind farms do not provide consistent power for 24-hours a day, this is also true for tidal power. For example, solar panels only produce energy during daylight hours, which vary depending on the time of the year and geographical location. In fact, peak solar power times typically coincide with times of low grid demand – in the early to mid-afternoon. In contrast, peak grid demand usually occurs in the early morning (before work) and again at around dusk, when the sun is low. And wind power is even more elusive. Therefore, companies developing these energy sources must also invest in battery storage to ensure that this power can be saved to be accessed during non-production times.
Battery storage is key to meeting the future of our energy needs. As the world transitions away from fossil fuels to renewable alternatives, global reliance on solar and wind power, as well as other green energy sources, will increase. If energy firms do not invest heavily in the development of battery storage facilities now, much of this power will be lost, and the grid could be left without electricity.
Many industrial and commercial operations have already begun to develop battery energy storage systems (BESS) near their facilities to support their decarbonisation plans and provide backup emergency power sources. A shift to renewable resources can also drive electricity bills down and help companies to meet their ESG goals, making them more attractive to consumers.
Several experts believe that battery storage is vital to the accomplishment of the U.S. climate goals. In 2021, President Biden announced a target for the U.S. energy sector to be carbon-free by 2035. In 2020, only around 20 percent of America’s energy came from renewable resources, making this aim very ambitious. However, to achieve this goal one thing is sure – energy firms must invest in battery storage.
This issue led Paolo Romanacci, Enel Green Power’s Head of North America, to state that the 2035 target is feasible, but on one condition: that we “address the energy storage elephant in the room.” He added, “more electricity generation, more resource diversity, and more reliability services [are needed]. Hybrid renewable energy-plus-storage projects provide all three.”
Several major notable projects were developed last year, with U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates suggesting battery storage capacity grew by 4.5 GW, or 300 percent, in 2021. It expects an additional 10 GW of battery storage to come online by the end of 2023, mainly alongside solar projects. The EIA stated, “Declining cost for battery storage applications, favourable economics when deployed with renewable energy (predominantly wind and solar PV), and value-added additions in regional transmission organization (RTO) markets have helped drive the expansion of battery storage.”
Some of the companies that brought battery storage operations online in the U.S. in 2021 include Vistra Corp., Broad Reach Power, Arevon Asset Management, Tesla, Renewable Energy Systems (RES) and San Diego Gas & Electric, Salt River Project, Florida Power and Light Company, NextEra, Blythe Solar II, LLC, and Tucson Electric Power.
But no current battery storage project is quite so impressive as the largest facility in the world, located in California. The Moss Landing battery storage facility has a capacity of 400 MW. Vistra Energy, an integrated retail electricity and power generation company based in Texas, constructed the plant in two phases through agreements with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). The facility is connected to California’s power grid, with phase one commencing operations in December 2020 and phase two in July 2021.
And several more battery storage facilities are planned for this year, with American giants expanding overseas. General Electric (GE) has plans to convert a decommissioned gas-fired power station in the U.K. into a battery storage facility. Construction of the plant in Lincolnshire, in the East Midlands of England, is already underway. GE will be providing the 50 MW battery storage system to the plant, and it will store energy from 43 onshore wind farms across the county. It is expected to be able to store up to 100 MW-hours of electric energy, with operations starting in 2023. It will have a life span of around 25 years.
There is a clear need for greater battery storage developments worldwide, and the energy sector is responding. But it is important that momentum is not lost and that battery storage can be developed hand in hand with renewable energy projects to ensure greater efficiency and a strong grid system.