The State of Battery Energy Storage Systems

The state of battery energy storage systems in the USA banner

The Need for Battery Energy Storage Systems

Can battery energy storage systems be the solution for storing renewable energy in an efficient and cost effective way? Over the past decade, the cost of solar energy and wind energy have reached all-time lows, leading to hundreds of gigawatts worth of renewable energy generation. But because the sun isn’t always shining, and the wind isn’t always blowing, ensuring that there’s always energy on demand no matter the time of day or weather is one of the biggest challenges in the industry.

During peaks and lows, the US electric grid mostly relies on the burning of fossil fuels to provide a reliable supply of energy, as shown in table below. For renewable energy to truly compete with traditional energy resources and accelerate the energy transition, the industry must invest in and advance energy storage solutions. Battery energy storage systems (BESS) enable renewable energy sources to be stored and deployed when demand surges and, with grid integration, can distribute electricity over long distances.

U.S. utility-scale electricity generation by source, amount, and share of total in 2021
Preliminary data as of February 2022 reported by the US Energy Information Administration

Energy source

Billion kWh

Share of total

Fossil fuels (total)

2,504

60.8%

      Natural gas

1,575

38.3%

      Coal

899

21.8%

Nuclear

778

18.9%

Renewables (total)

826

20.1%

      Wind

380

9.2%

      Hydropower

260

6.3%

      Solar (total)

115

2.8%

 

Battery Energy Storage Is Creating New Jobs

In the Department of Energy’s 2021 US Energy Employment Report (USEER), the study found that although the renewable energy sector saw job losses in 2020 due to the pandemic, battery storage saw a 1% increase in jobs. The rapid expansion of the US battery energy storage sector will continue to drive a demand for talent across electrical engineering, civil/structural engineering, and other engineering roles.

Battery storage is also shaping up to be a great way for workers across fossil fuels to transition to the renewable energy industry. The energy startup SPARKZ recently announced plans for a new electric battery factory in West Virginia and will work with the labor union United Mine Workers of America to train and recruit miners for roles in this burgeoning industry. This new factory will employ at least 350 people and is a step forward in the United States' efforts to counter China's dominance of the battery market.

In the National Solar Jobs Census 2019 conducted by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (formerly the Solar Foundation), "Solar installation companies reported that about 16,000 jobs, or 10% of the total at installation companies, focused on battery storage. Separately, within firms where battery storage is the primary focus, there were 14,638 jobs directly linked to solar.

The Largest Energy Storage Systems in the US

Elkhart Battery

In April 2022, California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced their 182.5 MW energy storage system--designed and constructed in a partnership with Tesla--was fully operational. Located in Moss Landing--roughly 100 miles south of San Francisco--the lithium-ion system known as Elkhorn Battery is one of the largest operational systems in the world to date.

In a press release, CEO Patti Pope says, “We are committed to safely delivering reliable and clean energy in a way that achieves the greatest value for our customers, but we can’t go it alone into this clean energy future. Projects like this require innovative partners, such as Tesla, and PG&E will continue to seek out and work with the best and brightest to provide breakthrough clean energy solutions for our customers.”

In addition to the 955.5 MW of new battery storage connected to California's electric grid, PG&E expects an additional 1,400-plus MW of energy storage capacity to come online by 2023.

DeCordova Energy Storage Facility

Construction on this 260 MW battery storage located in Granbury, Texas is expected to be completed in Q2 2022. The DeCordova plant is costing about $100 million and is part of the billion-dollar investment Vista Energy has made in the Lone Star state. Vista's investment comes as the company plans to phase out older, less efficient power plants.

Sonoran Battery Storage Project

Located in Buckeye, Arizona, this 260 MW battery energy storage facility will be built alongside a 260 MW solar plant. NextEra Energy Resources says the entire project, including the Sonoran solar project, will create 500 construction jobs. Commercial operations are expected to begin in June 2023.

Other notable battery energy storage projects in development:

Project Name

Location

Operator

Power Output (MW)

Gemini Battery Storage Project

Nevada

Primergy Solar

380

Crimson Battery Storage Project

California

Recurrent Energy

350

Daggett Battery Storage Project

California

Clearway Energy Group

320

Eland Battery Storage Project

California

8minutenergy Renewables LLC

300

Guajillo Energy Storage Project

Texas

Eni New Energy US

200

Kapolei Energy Storage Project

Hawaii

Plus Power

185

Koshkonong Battery Storage Project

Wisconsin

WEC Energy Group

165

 

What Is the Future of Battery Storage Technology?

1. Hybrid renewables + storage plants

The Sonoran Solar Project is just one of many hybrid solar and battery storage projects in development. In California, almost two-thirds of all grid-connected batteries are part of a hybrid system. It is estimated that the solar plus storage industry will employ 400,000 workers in 2030, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2020 published by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). As more projects take this approach, it is likely that solar will grow in tandem with battery energy storage. In the Solar Market Insight Report 2019 Q4 published by SEIA and Wood Mackenzie, analysts predict that by 2023, 20% of all commercial solar capacity in the US will have storage attached.

Wind or solar plus battery storage is often more economical than relying on peaking power plants, which commonly are gas-fired and turn on when energy demand is peaking. It’s also more environmentally conscious as peakers disproportionately emit harmful particles and air pollutants. As battery technology improves, hybrid renewables and storage plants will outperform peakers in reliability and resilience. 

2. Lithium-ion will keep getting cheaper

The main option for energy storage is lithium-ion batteries. They are used in an increasingly wide array of products, including wheelchairs, smartphones, computers, and automobiles. The growth of the electric vehicle market and the adoption of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) have contributed to an overall drop in lithium-ion battery pack prices in recent years.

In 2020, lithium-ion battery pack prices were above $140/kWH but by the fall of 2021 prices had fallen to $132/kWh. Although demand for lithium-ion batteries is expected to continue rising, constraints within global supply chains are causing price spikes and may result in price trends dropping less drastically than was anticipated. Still, lithium-ion will continue to see cost reductions as manufacturing techniques improve and the technology develops for most electric grid applications.

3. Looking beyond Lithium-ion

Experts believe the energy storage market in the United States “could grow to as much as $426 billion,” creating opportunities for new battery chemistries to compete with Lithium-ion. One such competitor is zinc-bromine. This technology is attractive for electric vehicles and utility-scale battery storage applications in terms of low manufacturing costs and other advantages such as fire risk.

According to electrical engineer Davis George Moye, “In the battery world, people often develop new chemicals for new batteries before they really understand the technology they already have, let alone competing technologies.” Despite the dozens of alternate battery chemistries being looked at today, it’s safe to say that Lithium-ion will continue to dominate the market for a long while to come.

 


Jobs in battery energy storage systems are waiting for you.

Contact a consultant today.


 

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