When it comes to energy storage, California is leading the nation in implementing grid-scale, forward-thinking strategies to meet energy needs and save the planet. The rest of the country, and the rest of the world, should be taking notes.
Just outside of San Francisco, dominating the Bay Area, there’s a power plant. Under a roofline dominated by smokestacks sits what amounts to a bridge between two eras. As the coal-fired electricity churns through antiquate wires, one-way, a 300-megawatt lithium-ion battery sits ready to be turned out. It’s enough energy to offer power to thousands of households in the area for up to four hours during peak evening usage, the timeframe often needed during blackouts caused by heatwaves, wildfires, or other climate-triggered outages. In the next several months, another 100-megawatt battery will hop online as well, expanding the window and the reach to more households, supporting as many as 300,000 homes.
There’s more. A further 182 megawatts will be online thanks to Tesla battery packs, giving the overarching system the power to support every home in San Francisco for up to six hours. Other energy storage projects dot California, including a 250-megawatt system in San Diego and smaller installations in Long Beach.
California’s efforts have set the tone for what might ultimately turn into an energy storage arms race. Projects in South Florida, now scheduled to hit over 400 megawatts, plus developments in Chile, the United Kingdom, and Lithuania are in the 200+ megawatt neighborhood.
In the near-term, these facilities support grid-scale energy suppliers by providing additional supply during disasters and peak energy periods. But the real benefit is their use to support renewables like wind and solar at every level of the grid. There is equal value in a utility provider like PG & E installing solar panels or wind turbines, as individual households or businesses, giving and taking energy as needed and using that connectivity to push power where it’s needed and turning down the dial where it is not.
One of the driving forces behind these grid-scale energy storage projects is cost. According to industry experts, the price of lithium-ion batteries has dropped precipitously in recent years, including a 70% dip between 2015 and 2018. That same analysis predicts that the price per megawatt in lithium-ion technology could drop a further 45% between 2019 and 2030.
Lowering the cost of entry has enabled more businesses and engineers to incorporate elements of energy storage at the municipal level, but also on a smaller scale as well. With lithium-ion technology no longer cost-prohibitive, energy storage at individual facilities and plants are giving business owners tighter control over their energy costs, especially in fighting exorbitant rates inflated by peak loads. Load shedding has evolved to include a totally new element in the past several years, with businesses using stored energy and renewables to lower their draw on the grid, or even power themselves within their own microgrid.
We’re anticipating lithium-ion technology to become more widespread over the next decade, but we’re also looking ahead to new technologies that offer energy storage capacity, as well as watching federal and state legislation that could offer financial incentives to specific industries to integrate their own energy storage projects.
2021 is going to be an exciting year in the world of energy, and we’ll continue to keep you updated! For more, get in touch.