We are living in an era of big batteries, and they are getting bigger. Isn’t there a song about this: I like big batteries and cannot lie. You other utilities can’t deny, that when lightning takes out the power with a roaring CRASH but big batteries flip it back ON.
In California, there’s a plan for a colossal battery that will have a capacity of 1,500 megawatts (MW) and 6,000 megawatt-hours (MWh). One phase of the Moss Landing installation comes from a Texas-based energy company called Vistra Corp, and the company has received the construction permit and is, with battery supplier Tesla, kicking the project into high gear. The system is currently under construction alongside an existing gas-fired power plant. Back in May, Vistra Corp announced its plans to expand the size of its battery energy storage system in Moss Landing, CA.
Vistra Corp hopes to develop a second phase and has entered into a 10-year resource adequacy agreement with California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), which is subject to approval by the California Public Utilities Commission. This would mean the development of two Moss Landing energy storage projects.
The first one, a phase 1 battery storage plant, would have a power capacity of 300 MW and energy capacity of 1,200 MWh, while the second phase would be 100 MW and 400 MWh, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. S&P has noted that the Commission has approved the planned expansion. If completed soon, this would mean that Vistra’s planned Moss Landing storage project would easily top the list of America’s largest battery storage systems — and the world’s as well.
S&P also noted that Vistra is one of the largest carbon emitters in the U.S. power sector but that it is slowly moving away from fossil fuels. It’s emerging as a key partner for California while helping the state balance rising volumes of variable renewable energy generation with energy storage. It is also diversifying its own fossil fuel–heavy power mix with investments into renewables and batteries.
Vistra’s President and CEO, Curtis Morgan, told S&P in an email, “California is certainly the most attractive location for us to pursue further battery investment at economic terms given the resource adequacy contracts.” Vistra hopes that its work in California will help cut its emissions by 50% before 2030 and it wants to eventually cut its dependence on fossil fuels. “We believe the power sector will ultimately evolve entirely away from coal and, in the longer term, away from natural gas,” Morgan told S&P. “This is why we expect to dedicate roughly 25% of our free cash flow to investing in renewables and batteries.”
The Market For Battery Storage Is Blossoming
Big batteries are here to stay. In its 2019 fact sheet, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute noted that in 2017 the U.S. generated 4 billion MWhs of electricity. However, it only had 431 MWhs of electricity storage available. Pumped-storage hydropower (PSH), it noted, is the most popular form of energy storage in the U.S — accounting for 95% of utility-scale energy storage. It also noted that most of the battery storage projects that many Independent System Operators (ISOs) and Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) build are only for the short-term energy storage. These are not built to replace the traditional grid. And most of these use lithium-ion batteries which provide enough energy to shore up the local grid for around 4 hours or less.
The factsheet also pointed out that not only have the costs of energy storage, solar, and wind energy dramatically decreased, but that has made solutions that paired storage with renewable energy more competitive (naturally) on both the large scale and the small scale. One major example of that paring is Tesla’s Powerwall 2, which is designed for residential energy storage. Tesla’s expertise in battery development has made this one of the most advanced systems in the world. This system can be connected to an onsite solar power system and also has special modes such as grid services, storm watch, and preconditioning — and it gets software updates over the air.
Back in 2019, MarketsandMarkets predicted that the battery energy storage market was expected to grow from $2 billion in 2018 to $8.5 billion by 2023 due to the increasing demand for grid-connected solutions. That growth is well underway, and we’ll see how it evolves in the next few years.