Why You Don’t Always See Megawatt-Hours (MWh) In Reporting

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As the clean technology industry has grown and evolved over the last decade the focus has slowly begun to shift, and where 15, 10, and even 5 years ago we were reading primarily about new large-scale renewable energy generating capacity such as wind and solar, we are now beginning to see the importance of combining new renewable capacity with energy storage.

Energy storage has, quite simply, risen in importance to rival wind and solar and electric vehicles. And while energy storage is obviously not a new concept — with large-scale pumped-hydro storage projects littering the planet — the new focus is on battery storage.

According to a November 2018 Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis, the global energy storage market (excluding pumped-hydro storage) will grow cumulatively to 942 gigawatts (GW) with 2,857 gigawatt-hours (GWh) by 2040, attracting $620 billion in investment along the way.

In April of this year, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables published its own analysis which predicted the global energy storage market will increase 13-fold over the next five years, adding as much as 146 GWh of new capacity by 2024.

“From 2013 to 2018, we saw fledgling market growth,” said Ravi Manghani, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables Research Director, writing in April to accompany a new report entitled ‘Global energy storage outlook 2019: 2018 year-in-review and outlook to 2024. “This was reflected in a global GWh compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 74%, although we did observe relatively small deployment totals of 7 GW/12 GWh for the period.

“Nevertheless, these developments have shifted the minds of global regulators, policymakers, grid operators, asset operators and developers, in terms of how energy systems can be balanced,” Manghani continued. “Market structures have generally struggled to keep up with the pace of this technology, illustrated by the limited number of revenue streams available to appropriately compensate storage. More than half of the GWh during this period came online in 2018 alone, beckoning an inflection in storage demand.”

Most importantly is the cost of energy storage, and of battery storage technology in particular. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance report from March highlighted the plummeting Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCoE) for energy technologies. The LCoE is the all-in expense of producing a megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity from a new project and accounts for the costs of development, construction and equipment, financing, feedstock, operation, and maintenance. According to Bloomberg’s report, the benchmark LCoE for lithium-ion batteries had dropped 35% in the past year to $187/MWh — down from nearly $800/MWh back in 2013 (as can be seen below).

It’s little wonder, then, that so much of our attention is focused on energy storage.

With so much attention on energy storage, therefore, it is unsurprising that people want to know how much energy storage we are talking about. Measuring generation capacity of a solar or wind farm, for instance, is relatively simple — you can refer to its base figure or its peak figure (which is why you sometimes see MW or GW followed by a “p”).

However, the same cannot be said for energy storage, as base capacity is, while a valuable figure, not the most valuable figure. Unsurprisingly, the figure people want to know for energy storage projects is how long it can provide power — which is where megawatt- or gigawatt-hours (MWh/GWh) come in; how many megawatt-hours can your new energy storage provide?

New EnglandHere’s the tricky thing, though, and the reason why I’m writing this particular article:

Spend any time in a comments section anywhere on the internet and you will find know-it-alls jumping out of their skin with un-looked-for knowledge and correction. Sometimes it might be valuable correction, most times it isn’t. Other times there’s just juvenile vitriol and criticism. It’s little wonder, then, that people avoid comments sections like the plague.

One particular favorite correction readers of CleanTechnica like to throw at us is the lack of megawatt-/gigawatt-hours provided in our reporting. They complain that there’s no real way to tell how impressive (or not) the reported project is without those figures.

Guess what — we agree.

Unfortunately, the megawatt-/gigawatt-hour figure is not reliably provided by developers or operators. One developer might always provide that figure while another never will. One operator might provide it sometimes, and hide it at other times.

And I use the word “hide” intentionally, because sometimes, even though we have gone looking for the information — whether by reading through project details or operational figures, or reaching out via email for comment and clarification — the figure is denied us.

For whatever reason, sometimes — and in my particular situation, often — the megawatt-/gigawatt-hour figure is not provided, leaving me with only the base capacity figure to report.

This lack of information is changing, albeit slowly, and I have noticed more and more project developers and operators providing their generating figures, but until an industry-wide shift towards complete transparency happens, coupled with an understanding within the industry that people want to know the specific details of a project, clean technology reporters will have to continue to rely on the information provided.

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

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