Battery storage market energized in 2021

Battery storage will grow by 8.5 GW in the US this year. This prediction is based on estimates from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Energy researchers say battery storage advances, combined with renewable energy tax credits, lower development costs, and rising gas prices, are driving the change. A battery backup for your home can literally keep the heat, the lights, or the air conditioning running when the neighborhood goes dark.

How much is a gigawatt (GW)?

Based on horsepower (hp), a gigawatt is over 1 million horses (746 watts = 1 hp). It equals over 100 million LED lights (at about 9 watts per light); over 400 utility-scale wind turbines; and over 3 million solar panels (based on 320 watts per panel).

What’s ahead for solar battery storage?

The S&P estimate was written before the devastating Feb. 2021 storm that crippled Texas, so battery storage could easily grow beyond the 8.5 GW projections.

ERCOT, MISO, US Bulk Power

Battery storage is part of a rapidly changing electricity sector. The retirement of coal-fired power generators and increased use of gas, alongside renewable forms, like photovoltaics and wind turbines, mixes new variables into the national grid infrastructure. The change is coming faster than some energy providers near you can adapt.

2020 battery development and deployment

Last year, the largest battery storage system in the US connected to the grid in California. The Gateway Energy Storage Project is a lithium-ion battery system with a total capacity of 250MW. Gateway will also serve Nevada.

California will require about 15,000 MW of battery storage to reach the state’s goal of going carbon-free by 2045.

Larger projects are in the works including 400 MW in Florida and a 380 MW storage system in Nevada. Gateway will add another 187.5 MW in the next few years.

North America has less than 2 GW of battery storage, but is expected to double by 2023, according to a report by the North American Energy Reliability Corporation (NERC).

NERC cited Department of Energy projections that by 2050, 35 percent of the United States’ energy will come from wind power (404 GW) and 27 percent will come from solar photovoltaic power (632 GW).

By 2050, about 35% of US energy will come from wind power (404 GW) and 27% from solar power (632 GW) according to projections from the Dept. of Energy.

Battery energy storage will play a key role in the grid transformation by meeting demand for peak capacity and reliability.

Bulk Power Storage

Bulk power systems, like massive energy storage in batteries, require secure, resilient, and reliable power dynamics. Wind and solar have ebb and flow cycles that necessitate a baseline power supply. At the flick of a switch (a virtual switch controlled automatically) batteries can ramp up (or down) and respond instantly to the dynamic need (or surplus) for electric power.

BloombergNEF projects that energy storage will multiply exponentially, from just 9 GW in 2018 to 1,200 GW in 2050 (not including pumped hydropower).

Battery energy storage systems, like the Tesla Powerwall or Generac PWRcell, take advantage of energy market prices by charging during low price hours and discharging at peak price hours.

Battery storage and load

Read more about battery storage for solar energy systems.

How do batteries work?

There are two kinds of electrochemical batteries. The first, most common group, includes lead, lithium, sulfur, and sodium nickel chloride. The other kind is “flow.”

Electrochemical storage uses a chemical reaction that is reversed for charging and discharging.

In the lithium-ion group, batteries have high load capabilities, a long cycle and shelf life, fast charge times, and are maintenance free.

Lithium-ion batteries

Flow batteries also use chemicals (like vanadium or zinc bromine) to store energy. Unlike solid-state, liquid chemicals are pumped through a reaction area for charge/discharge.

A flow battery is a cross between a fuel cell and a conventional battery. Disadvantages of flow batteries are their size and lack of mobility. A flow battery operates most efficiently at more than 20 kWh. They require large tanks and pumps to create energy. But the storage capacity can be easily increased by increasing the amount of fluid in the tanks. Flow batteries can cycle up to 10,000 times and last about 20 years.

Japan has extensively used flow battery systems since the 1990s. But flow batteries are an emerging technology. Only about 2% of the energy storage market uses the flow battery chemical pump setup.

NERRC’s report emphasizes the need for interoperability and integration of inverter based power supplies (like wind and solar) to maintain bulk power reliability and security.

Battery-powered transportation

About 2/3 of all lithium-ion batteries are used in electric vehicles (EVs). By 2030, that number is will grow to include 3/4 of Li-ion batteries.

Battery-powered vehicles accounted for 4% of all new cars sold in 2020, expected to rise to 22% by 2025. EVs and batteries batteries are a key technology for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from transportation, power, and industry sectors. But to reach global sustainability goals, batteries must exhibit high performance beyond existing capabilities.

Battery limits

If you’re familiar with Moore’s Law, you might have also heard about Richard Swanson’s Law of Solar.

Moore’s Law states that computer processing doubles in power roughy every two years. Gordon Moore’s observation applies to some other technologies but is not universal. For example, the maximum speed of airplanes or boats does not increase exponentially.

Swanson’s solar “law” goes that the price of photovoltaic solar modules tends to drop about 10% per year in dollars per watt peak (Wp). (Wp is a measure of the capacity of a solar installation under ideal conditions.)

Unfortunately, no such law exists (or is expected to emerge) for batteries. Li-ion batteries are approaching their performance limits. Unless an unforeseen technological advance emerges, battery efficiency will flatten.

The reason is that unlike computer chips, batteries increase in size in conjunction with power growth. Increasing the size of a battery also increases the danger associated with volatile chemical reactions.

Revolutionary and rapid advances in battery storage development can only come with a shift in the chemical components.

Battery advances continue apace

But battery storage advances will continue as researchers tinker with the basic setup.

For example, University of Texas-Austin battery scientists found a way to eliminate the rare earth metal cobalt from Li-ion batteries. Most lithium-ion batteries use metal ions for cathodes, like manganese-cobalt or nickel-cobalt-aluminum. Roughly half of the materials costs for batteries exists in the cathodes. Cobalt (chemical symbol: Co) costs more than nickel, manganese, and aluminum combined! Cobalt costs about $50,000 per tonne (Feb. 2021 price).

The other way batteries have advanced is in their intelligence. For example, Tesla’s Powerwall battery system software provides continuous updates, much like the ones installed in their electric cars. One recent update to the Tesla battery software manager is Storm Watch. This software monitors local weather conditions to adapt instantly to the forecast, including cloudy conditions and power outages. The battery can then change its charge/discharge patterns to provide power when you need, at the best prices, and keeps your home securely powered.

Want to know more?

Read more about our breakdown of the burgeoning battery market on MOXIE’s blog.

Are you interested in battery storage to maintain energy needs, even when the grid goes out?

Set up a free, no-obligation, virtual consultation with one of our MOXIE solar storage system experts.

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