Saving energy for rainy days
BESS can help straighten out the duck curve dilemma by storing surplus energy when electricity generation exceeds consumption, and then releasing it during times of peak demand.
The technology is mature and its efficiency is high. However, development has stalled for some time because of fire safety concerns and the high cost of lithium-ion cells.
A fire in July at the Tesla Megapack BESS in Australia, for instance, took 150 firefighters four days to extinguish, highlighting the potential risks of using batteries to store RE.
Other developments favour the expansion of BESS projects, however. For one thing, the price of a lithium-ion battery pack has fallen drastically by 89% from US$1,100/kWh in 2010 to just US$137/kWh in 2020, according to BloombergNEF.
In addition, utility companies are becoming more experienced in battery technology. A utility-scale BESS can now be used as a primary power supply or as a resource to plug the gap between demand and RE supply, allowing governments and utility companies to include them in long-term energy infrastructure planning.
Harsh lessons from California
The summer heatwave of 2020 brought harsh lessons in RE management from California, where millions of residents faced hours of power outages because of rolling blackouts that affected hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.
RE supplies around 36% of California’s electricity, and the state aims to use RE for 60% of its energy by 2030 and to achieve a carbon-free grid by 2045.
Critics say inadequate supply-demand planning and market issues led to the blackouts, while a root cause report concluded California should be more aggressive in investing in long-term energy storage, ensuring power from resources like solar are available at peak demand times.
In an effort to avoid future blackouts, the state is investing in 1,700MW of new battery capacity by August 2021, sufficient to power 1.3 million homes.
California will need to install an estimated 48.8GW of energy storage – five times the output of all utility-scale batteries currently operating worldwide – to meet its target of a carbon-free grid by 2045.
Lawmakers in the US Congress introduced legislation in March to create a tax credit for residential and utility-scale energy storage projects. This will help support the widescale expansion of BESS projects and RE systems across the country.
A burgeoning battery industry
Across the Asia-Pacific region, BESS projects are taking shape as the move towards a greener future with greater use of RE gathers pace.
EnergyAustralia has brought forward the closure of Yallourn Power Station in the state of Victoria by four years and is building a new 350MW battery storage facility, the largest in the world, to help provide more RE.
For households, EnergyAustralia’s Solar Plus plan has made solar energy simple by charging selected customers zero upfront cost and a fixed low rate for the electricity they use. Harnessing virtual power plant technology, the company can manage the solar and battery systems installed at customers’ homes, improving the stability of the electricity grid.