The margins of the U.S.’s energy system are being moved to the center by battery storage.
According to a report by Wood Mackenzie, a research firm, and the American Clean Power Association (a trade group), the market added 3,508 megawatts in 2021. This is more than twice the amount of the previous year. The total includes grid-scale storage, as well smaller storage systems at homes or businesses.
“We are seeing that storage has evolved to be an essential part of the energy transition and something that utilities are leaning on in their resource planning,” said Chloe Holden, a Wood Mackenzie analyst and co-author of the report, in an interview.
Storage is vital because it allows grid operators store wind and sun power when they are scarce and then release them when needed.
The rapid growth in battery storage has gone on for years, rising from 257 megawatts in 2016, which seemed huge at the time, to last year’s total—an increase of more than 1,200 percent.
But this isn’t the same story repeated with ever-larger numbers. Despite the continued growth of grid-scale batteries projects, it was difficult for developers to cope with rising costs of raw materials such as lithium and delays in international shipping in 2021. This year’s record results would have been even more impressive if not for these challenges, the report said.
New projects can also run longer on one charge, in addition to their increased capacity. This refers to how much power a system can discharge at any given moment. The new projects could run at full capacity for three hours on average in 2021, a significant increase from the 2.5 hours it took to go online in 2020.
Projects are becoming larger and three of them are in their own category in terms of size.
- NextEra Energy’s Blythe and McCoy storage facilities were developed last year. They are located close to each other in California, just north of the Arizona border. When combined, they can produce 523 megawatts in systems that can last for four hours on a full charge.
- Manatee Energy Storage Center, developed by Florida Power & Light, a NextEra subsidiary, went online late last year near Bradenton, Florida. It can run for 2.2 hour on a single charge and has 409 Megawatts of power.
- Vistra Corp.’s Moss Landing Energy Storage was built last year near Monterey Bay in California. It has a 400-megawatt capacity and can run for four hours on one charge.
Each of those could make claims to be the largest battery storage projects in the world, depending on how you want to define “largest.” Manatee is the largest single project in terms of capacity, but Moss Landing is nearly as large in capacity and can run for much longer on a charge. If you add them all, the Blythe/McCoy projects will be the largest.
The Manatee and Blythe/McCoy projects also are examples of the rising number of systems that are being developed alongside large solar arrays, to help maximize the solar array’s ability to sell electricity into the grid at times when it is most needed.
There have been several outages at Moss Landing due to concerns about fire and other issues. Because lithium-ion batteries are highly flammable, grid-scale projects often have safeguards in place to detect smoke and suppress flames.
In January, Vistra released results of an investigation of a September outage, finding that the release of small amounts of smoke from a defective part of an air handling unit led to the activation of sprinkler systems, which damaged about 7 percent of the plant’s batteries. Moss Landing’s maintenance problems and those of the other large plants are serious as companies are still trying to figure out how best to operate them.
California is still ahead of other states when it comes to developing battery storage. This is due in large part to the requirements of state law and regulators. California Independent System Operator, which manages the grid for most of the state said that storage has been an integral part of keeping the lights on. One example is from July 9, 2021, when wildfires led to an interruption of the flow of electricity from power plants in the Pacific Northwest, and storage systems “played a crucial role” in helping to avoid rolling blackouts, the grid operator said.
Other states are also adding battery storage at an accelerated pace, including Texas and Florida, Massachusetts, and Nevada.
The Wood Mackenzie Report includes a forecast up to 2026. This shows significant growth in 2022/23 and to the point when annual projects will reach 10,000 megawatts in 2023. The annual total would remain at the same level through 2026.
“Despite supply tightness leading to some project delays, the grid-scale market is still on track for exponential growth,” said Jason Burwen, vice president for energy storage at American Clean Power, said in a statement.
But there are important caveats to this forecast. It doesn’t include the potential effects of new federal or state laws that would encourage or require energy storage. It assumes that the current difficulties in obtaining materials will persist to some degree through 2024.
Holden explained that the market’s main dynamic is an imbalance between supply-demand, which should decrease over time.
“Demand is just really high,” she said. “Supply is constrained.”
This week, there are other stories about energy transitions you should be aware of:
How Biden’s Budget Would Change the Energy Sector:The Biden administration has submitted to Congress a budget proposal of $5.8 trillion. This plan includes $3.3Billion for energy programs, $502M to weatherize homes of low-income households, and $90M to modernize America’s electricity grid. The release of the budget proposal is the first step in a long process that will include many changes based on negotiations with Congress, but the level of proposed spending on clean energy programs shows that this is an area of high priority, as Heather Richards, Miranda Willson, Carlos Anchondo, Christian Vasquez and Kristi E. Swartz report for E&E News. “My budget lowers family energy costs with tax credits to help people make their homes more efficient, research and development to broaden the reach of solar and build a clean energy future,” Biden said.
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New Oklahoma Wind Farm is a giant:American Electric Power has started operating the Traverse Energy Center, a 998-megawatt wind farm located in Oklahoma. The company claims it is the country’s largest. The completion of the project “is part of the next chapter in AEP’s transition to a clean energy future,” said Nick Akins, AEP’s top executive. AEP, a Ohio-based company, has been closing down its coal-fired power stations and turning to natural gas to make up the difference. Mark Williams reports that AEP has stated that it is on track in 2030 to get half its electricity from renewable sources. The Columbus Dispatch.
Germany’s New Government Had Big Plans on Climate, Then Russia Invaded Ukraine: Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has made Germany’s reliance on Russian oil and gas untenable, and led the government of Chancellor Olav Scholz to accelerate the transition to clean energy. As I report for ICN., German leaders are just beginning to show the world what an aggressive climate strategy looks like in a crisis. “What [the Ukraine war] does is speed things up a bit, and breaks down opposition,” said Sascha Müller-Kraenner, director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe, a leading German environmental advocacy group. According to him, the war has proven that the transition towards renewable energy is as much a national security strategy as its climate policy.
Federal Government holds May Auction for Offshore Wind lease Areas Offshore off the Carolinas After a record-breaking auction for offshore wind leases in New York and New Jersey near New York, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold an auction for lease areas outside of the Carolinas on May 11. Iulia Gheorghiu reports that the Carolina Long Bay could be used for at least 1.3 gigawatts offshore wind energy capacity.
Federal Investigation Threatens Solar Industry, Industry Group Says:The U.S. Commerce Department stated that it is investigating whether solar panel imports are violating Chinese import restrictions. As Matthew Daly reports for Associated Press, clean energy business groups warn that retroactive tariffs could be applied to solar panels imported from China. This could result in layoffs and a reduction of solar projects. “Overnight, the Commerce Department … drove a stake through the heart of planned solar projects,” said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association. The investigation follows a complaint by Auxin Solar, a California-based solar panel manufacturer that said panels assembled in four Southeast Asian countries—Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam—are circumventing restrictions on imports of solar panels from China.
Julie Margolin, an ICN reporter, contributed to this article.
Inside Clean Energy is ICN’s weekly bulletin of news and analysis about the energy transition. Send news tips and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Inside Climate News