It wasn’t that long ago that solar power and wind power were labeled as marginal, ‘green’ electricity, but in the last five years or so they have become much more affordable and economically more feasible than conventional sources like coal and nuclear.
What supported solar along the way partly was the emergence of energy storage in the form of battery systems. Electricity can now be made by solar power systems and the excess can be stored for usage at night or on less sunny days. At least, solar power has been paired successfully with energy storage, and it is catching up with solar power. The cost of this newish technology is dropping, “The overall estimated cost fell 32% in 2015 and 2016, according to the 2017 GTM Reseach utility-scale storage report. That will slow over the next five years, GTM reported. But battery storage is — in certain places and applications — on its way to cost-competitiveness.”
According to Lazard, it could drop another 36% between 2018 and 2022. The UC-Berkeley research study, “Energy Storage Deployment and Innovation for the Clean Energy Transition,” predicted lithium-ion batteries could hit the $100 per kilowatt-hour mark in 2018.
FERC Order 845, from this April, made conditions more favorable for wind energy storage, “FERC Order 845 is more important for wind developers because it changes the interconnection rules. A developer with underused interconnection capacity can now add storage without a new interconnection, allowing the wind developer to profit from underused interconnection capacity in a way that was not possible before,” said RES Group Chief Technology Officer Andrew Oliver.
It isn’t only lithium-ion batteries that have potential to back up wind power systems, as flow batteries might work too, “Due to its scalable energy capacity the Vanadium redox battery is a highly promising option to support our advanced technology offers for isolated and grid connected systems,” said Antonio de la Torre, SGRE’s chief technology officer.
The notion of cost-competitiveness can be a strange one, because the costs of fossil fuels go far beyond extraction, processing and shipping. What is the cost of burning oil and coal on human health and the planet? Fossil fuels have always had much higher costs than have been acknowledged, so comparing them directly with those of solar and wind is quite misleading.
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