The Opportunities for Growth in Utility-Scale Storage

Energy Storage with Windmills and Solar Panels

As various technologies advance, they pose not only some challenges for electric utilities, but also some opportunities. One such technology is battery energy storage, which typically involves lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries often combined with solar, but also with other sources of generation (which will be discussed further on).

There are generally three system sizes of battery energy storage: home and small business units, community units, and utility-scale storage (USS) units. Here, we look at utility-scale storage and the opportunities that this technology (and its expected continued growth) along with some additional considerations for USS, has for readers.

What kind of growth is being projected? In the short term, a March 2022 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration noted that, in the next two years, power plant developers and operators expect to add 10 GW of battery storage capacity, and that more than 60 percent of this capacity will be paired with solar facilities. “In 2021, 3.1 GW of battery storage capacity was added in the United States, a 200% increase,” said the report. “Declining costs for battery storage applications, along with favorable economics when deployed with renewable energy (predominantly wind and solar PV), have driven the expansion of battery storage.”

In the longer term, a 2021 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) noted that, across all scenarios in its study, utility-scale diurnal energy storage deployment is expected to grow significantly through 2050, totaling over 125 gigawatts of installed capacity in the modest cost and performance assumptions. This represents a more than five-fold increase from today’s total. Depending on cost and other variables, deployment could total as much as 680 gigawatts by 2050, said the NREL.

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