Utility-Scale Solar Construction Becoming Increasingly Solar Plus Storage
The demand for energy is increasing across the world. At the same time, we are seeing the ill effects of climate change from rising sea levels to longer, more intense droughts. This has given rise to a demand for clean energy sources. And solar energy is on top of the list.
New developments are leading to cheaper and investment-worthy solar projects. According to a recent report from S&P Global Market Intelligence, solar deployments are expected to hit new records in 2022. The forecast calls for almost double 2021’s estimated 23 gigawatts of new capacity. A drop in solar technology costs, downward trending costs for lithium-ion, and increased facilities for solar energy storage will fuel this growth.
Solar plus storage projects are rapidly gaining in popularity, particularly in areas where there is a higher demand for solar power, such as California. More and more utility-scale solar projects are adopting the solar plus storage model.
Battery energy storage systems have an important role in making solar power available when the sun is not shining. Let's try to understand these terms and the popularity of the solar plus storage projects.
What are utility-scale solar projects?
There is no commonly accepted definition for “utility-scale solar,” but many can agree that utility-scale solar projects are those that produce more than 10 megawatts (MW) of energy. These solar facilities feed solar energy into the utility grid and convert DC electricity into AC electricity, making it safe for household use. Utility companies are the primary purchasers of the power generated in these projects.
Solar plus storage projects
Of late there has been an increase in solar plus storage projects. Many of the upcoming solar projects contain storage systems supported by batteries.
How do solar plus storage projects work?
These projects contain solar panels and battery storage in a single system for better energy management. The connected solar system charges the battery system. PV panels of the solar system capture energy from the sun.
First, they fulfill the present energy requirement. Then the PV panels charge the battery. The batteries store the excess solar energy for later use. After the solar battery is completely charged, the system sends the extra energy to the grid.
Solar plus storage projects are equipped with the latest technology. This technology enables the system to monitor and divert the extra energy to the batteries. The batteries store this extra energy for use at a later stage.
Lithium-ion batteries are typically used for solar plus storage projects. Yes, the same lithium-ion in your cellphone and laptop. Lithium-ion has many benefits, which is why it has so many different applications. Lithium is a delicate metal and allows easy passage of the electric current. Lithium ions also have reversible chemical reactions allowing it to easily absorb power and discharge it later.
Utility-scale solar projects have huge battery packs. In most cases, the storage system sits next to the solar system. Sometimes the storage system stands alone. Whatever the location, the storage system increases the effectiveness of the solar project. Many solar companies view battery energy storage as a business growth opportunity.
Benefits of solar plus storage projects
Storage systems make the projects economically viable by providing solar power for a longer duration. This enables the use of solar power during periods of peak demand when conventional electric tariffs are quite high. By storing energy in the battery during low cost periods and then discharging during high cost or peak periods, utilities reduce their system-wide generation cost.
In addition, there are cost savings during installation. Installing a PV system and a storage system at the same place facilitates co-location. This allows both these systems to share some hardware elements. This leads to a reduction in costs.
There is also cost-effectiveness in procedures like site preparation, installation labor, land acquisition, interconnection, permitting, and developer overhead.
Prevention of wastage
Storing energy prevents wastage as large-scale projects produce plenty of energy that may not be needed for present use. This may create a need for taking power generation offline or curtailing it. This becomes necessary to prevent overgeneration and grid reliability issues. Storage facility prevents these issues.
Prevention of power failure
Storage systems also avoid loss of power during grid failure. In fact, during an outage, the batteries will know to kick in without most energy consumers even realizing there’s an outage.
Solar plus storage projects can provide power backup during power failure. They can be used to run emergency facilities during power disruptions.
Increases the utility of the project
Utility-scale solar projects cost a lot of money and effort to plan and implement. Cloudy or rainy days can limit the use of solar projects. The solar project is useless during the night. The storage facility extends the use of the solar project. The stored energy can be used during cloudy or rainy days as well.
Improved energy consumption from renewable sources
Fossil fuels are not used for creating solar power. This makes solar systems a renewable energy pillar. A storage system facilitates more energy consumption from renewable sources thus reducing harmful effects on the environment.
Reduce power bills
The solar energy storage facility will reduce power bills by managing evening energy ramps, arbitrage, and providing a black start capability.
Distribution of energy
Solar energy is produced during the daytime when the demand for energy is low. The storage facility allows this energy to be stored for evening time when energy demand is at its peak. The addition of storage allows the generation to be provided at different times based on the customer's requirement.
Avoid brief weather disruptions
Sometimes there can be brief disruptions in solar power generation due to brief events such as a passing cloud. Short-term storage through a small battery can take care of these problems and provide a consistent electrical supply.
Future solar plus storage projects in the US
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has predicted that by 2022 the U.S. power grid will get around 46.1 GW of new utility-scale electric generating capacity. Around half of this is anticipated to come from solar generation projects.
More than half of the solar plus storage capacity is expected to be installed in Texas, California, and New York.
As solar plus storage projects become more and more cost-effective, utility-scale solar construction projects will increasingly become solar plus storage.
Contact a consultant today.