Grid-scale batteries: further price drops result in concrete investments
by Mike Scott, July 9, 2019
With so much focus on renewable gas and heat as a means of offering dispatchable power it was interesting to note ScottishPower’s announcement of a new, gigantic battery storage facility. Lest we forget, battery energy storage is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the clean energy field and it is scaling up at an astonishing rate, not just in terms of overall capacity but also in terms of the size of individual projects, as the extent of the technology’s capabilities becomes clearer.
BloombergNEF says that for every doubling in capacity, the cost of batteries will fall by 18%, and it predicts that prices will drop by more than half (52%) by 2030, having already fallen by three quarters since 2012. This will lead to investment of $1.2 trillion by 2040. “We see energy storage growing to a point where it is equivalent to 7% of the total installed power capacity globally in 2040. The majority of storage capacity will be utility-scale until the mid-2030s,” Logan Goldie-Scot, head of energy storage at BNEF, said.
One example of this is ScottishPower’s recently announced plan for one of the biggest battery installations in Europe, a 50MW scheme that will be connected to the company’s 215-turbine 540MW Whitelee windfarm, the largest in the UK, to improve the economics of the project.
Whitelee suffers an unusually high level of curtailment – where the power it is generating cannot be sold because there is too much supply on the system or not enough capacity in the transmission system – and the batteries, which can be fully charged in an hour from off-peak electricity, will help it to store that power and sell it later when demand, and prices, are higher.
But the batteries won’t just be used to help meet peak demand – reducing the need for expensive, inefficient and polluting gas-fired “peaker” plants. They will displace fossil fuels in providing a range of other services to the grid, including frequency response.
“By integrating storage technologies with onshore wind, we are blowing away one of the myths about renewable generation not being available when you need it. Natural resources like wind and solar are variable in their very nature, and by using a battery we can ensure we optimise our ability to use the resource most effectively,” said Keith Anderson, ScottishPower chief executive.
The Whitelee project, due to be operational by the end of 2020, is just the start for ScottishPower – it operates almost 40 windfarms around the UK and says that it “is seeking to put similar arrangements in place at many of its other windfarms, with potential for batteries to go onto solar and future wind sites too”.
This is part of a growing trend. Earlier this month, Norwegian grid operator Statkraft announced it is partnering with Statera Energy to build 1GW of storage in the UK over the next 15 years, including batteries and gas-fuelled back-up generators, which will provide almost as much power as a nuclear power plant. The capacity will be integrated into Statkraft’s virtual power plant (VPP), which it launched earlier this year. “The increasing share of renewable energy in the UK will require a maximum of flexibility in the British power grid,” said Duncan Dale, UK vice president for sales and new products. “By integrating batteries and engines into the virtual power plant and optimising their operations we can provide this flexibility reliably.”
As much as 500MW of new large-scale battery storage capacity could come online in the UK in 2019, increasing capacity by more than 70% to 1.2GW.
It’s not just the UK, either. Statkraft operates a similar VPP in Germany that interconnects more than 1,400 wind and solar installations with an installed capacity of around 12GW in Europe’s largest virtual power plant.
In the US, a new project for Nevada utility NV Energy will couple 1.19GW of solar capacity with 590MW of storage capacity, part of the growing trend for larger renewable energy projects to be coupled with ever-expanding amounts of storage capacity.
Solar plus storage projects like this are set to help the US market for grid-tied storage to almost double this year from 376MW to 712MW, and to grow to almost 5GW within four years.
The combination works especially well in markets with high solar penetration such as Hawaii and California, which have too much solar power available during the middle of the day and not enough power in the evening. Hawaii, for example, has recently approved six utility-scale solar farms with enough battery capacity to produce the same amount of power as the solar installations.
Meanwhile, Australia’s largest solar plus storage project has just come online, a 60MW project in Victoria. It shows that batteries can play an important role, not just in new developments but also when retrofitted to existing renewable energy facilities.
The impact of all this new storage capacity is that wind and solar power will be able to provide half of the world’s electricity by 2050, BNEF says. As well as providing vital back-up for clean energy providers, batteries are fast becoming an integral part of the world’s power networks in their own right.