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ANALYSIS: Energy storage grows as renewables penetrate the grid

The race is on to secure utility-scale energy storage solutions that can help ease the transition to greater volumes of renewable energy on the grid, as utilities are drawn toward cleaner fuel sources because of cost declines and emissions reduction goals.

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"Energy storage is a game changer for the electric system, as it enables much higher penetrations of renewable energy and supports the grid more broadly," Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of trade group Energy Storage Association, said in an email Wednesday.

The Independent System Operator-New England estimates that wind and solar power generation capacity will grow by 34% and 142% respectively between 2017 and 2026, according to the grid operator's recently released 2018 State of the Power Grid report.

Grid-connected energy storage in ISO NE territory is estimated to grow 2,000% by 2026, albeit from a relatively small 20-MW installed nameplate capacity base at the end of 2017. However, that only includes battery energy storage and shows there is ample room for additional storage to help balance the ISO's anticipated renewable energy growth.

"The energy landscape is undergoing an unprecedented paradigm shift, as the growth of renewables, decentralization of power and digitization create both new challenges and opportunities in how power is generated, transmitted and distributed," Russell Stokes, president and CEO of GE Power, said in a Wednesday statement announcing a new storage offering.

GE is calling its 1.2 MW/4 MWh Reservoir Storage Unit the "fundamental building block" of the company's Reservoir energy storage platform, which is a modular system designed for grid applications like managing higher levels of renewable power, grid stabilization, peak demand management and energy flow control.

GE has lined up a 20-MW/80-MWh "pre-launch commitment," according to the statement.


Liquid Air Energy Storage takes a page from the liquefied natural gas playbook by super cooling ambient air to a frozen liquid state, storing it in a tank and turning it back into a gas that spins a turbine when power is needed.

"Some in the energy industry are convinced that long-duration storage -- which liquid air energy storage has the potential to become -- is key to unlocking a higher-renewables future," Speakes-Backman said.

Using established processes from the power generation and industrial gas sectors, LAES is a proprietary technology designed by Highview Power, a UK-based firm founded in 2005.

"LAES technology cost-effectively addresses the long duration energy storage use cases required by utilities and government policy," Carl Sheldon, president of the company's US subsidiary, said in a Tuesday statement.

LAES solutions can deliver anywhere from 10 MW/40 MWh to more than 200 MW/1.2 GWh of energy at "half the cost of lithium-ion batteries," according to the statement.


Wind and solar projects are increasingly incorporating energy storage systems that can provide grid services and store power generated when electricity prices are low for sale into the wholesale market when power prices are higher.

For example, AES said during a recent earnings call with analysts that it has signed long-term power purchase agreements for two "solar plus storage" facilities in Hawaii. The project calls for 47 MW of solar capacity combined with 34 MW of five-hour duration energy storage.

And NextEra Energy Resources has built in Arizona a 100-MW solar array with 30 MW/120 MWh battery storage system for Tucson Electric Power. "TEP will buy the system's output for 20 years for less than 3 cents/KWh, less than half as much as it agreed to pay under similar contracts in recent years," TEP said in a release in May.

-- Jared Anderson,
-- Edited by Matt Eversman,