The advent of “big battery” technology addresses the challenges of the intermittency of wind and solar, the YaleEnvironment360 of the Yale School of the Environment notes in a new report.
California, YaleEnvironment360 noted, is currently the global leader in the deployment of high-capacity batteries. One top location there is the Moss Landing Power Plant, whose twin smokestacks tower over Monterey Bay. This was once Northern California’s largest electric power station — fueled by a gigantic natural gas-fired generator. Today, those smokestacks are idle and the plant is pretty much useless as California seeks to decarbonize its economy. However, there is hope for the old power plant and that hope is powered by batteries. Well, one big battery.
Inside one turbine building is a 300-megawatt/1,200-megawatt-hour lithium-ion battery that is being readied for operation. Another 100-megawatt/400-megawatt-hour battery will also come online this year. Together, these two batteries will be able to produce enough electricity to power around 300,000 California homes for 4 hours during the evenings, during heatwaves, or at other times when energy demand outstrips supply.
Although California may be the global leader in this field, the rest of the world is following the state’s lead. In South Florida, plans for a 409-megawatt/900-megawatt-hour system were announced. There’s a 320-megawatt/640 megawatt-hour plant near London, England, and a 200-megawatt/200-megawatt-hour plant in Lithuania. There’s also a 112-megawatt facility in Chile.
YaleEnvironment360 pointed out that the mass deployment of storage could overcome one of the largest obstacles to renewable energy. That obstacle is cycling between oversupply when the sun shines a lot (solar energy is collected) or when the wind blows a lot (wind energy is collected) and shortage when the sun sets or the wind drops. If these imbalances between supply and demand are balanced by battery storage technology, renewables could easily replace fossil fuels used to help balance energy demand, fossil fuel peaker plants to are used just a few hours a day or so.
How quickly a clean energy future arrives, YaleEnvironment360 pointed out, depends on how rapidly costs of battery storage continues to fall — and they have been falling. The U.S. Energy Information Administration pointed out that the price for utility-scale battery storage in the U.S. dropped around 70% between 2015 and 2018.
With Batteries, Renewables Will Replace Natural Gas Generators
YaleEnvironment360 pointed out that batteries are beginning to reach a size that allow renewables to replace small and medium-sized natural gas generations. “Now we’re able to truly build these hybrid resources — solar, storage, wind — and do the job that was traditionally done by fossil fuel power plants,” says Hohenstein. Fluence, an energy storage tech and service provider, is seeing a surge of interest in these large projects.
“We see storage being a large player across effectively every future we look at,” Wesley Cole, an energy analyst with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), told YaleEnvironment360. “And not just one or two gigawatts … but tens to hundreds of gigawatts.” You can read the full article here.
Although it was briefly mentioned in the article, the need for battery storage has been driven, pardon the pun, by electric vehicles as well as consumer electronics. During Tesla’s Battery Day event last year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the link between them all. “You basically combine that with solar, either solar retrofit or solar glass roof, and local battery storage, so you basically become your own utility, and then the car can be charged also with solar,” he said.
With battery technology and solar panels, you can become your own utility. Think about that statement and what it means for the fossil fuel industry that many in the world depend on for electricity.
Images courtesy of Tesla