Sometimes an often-repeated refrain— the sun is not always shining, and the wind is not always blowing — is seen as an impediment to renewable energy. But it’s also an instinct to find the best ways to store the energy until it’s needed.
The rising cost of available technology has sparked interest in energy storage as never before. Over the past five years, lithium-ion battery prices have dropped by about 80 per cent, allowing storage to be incorporated into solar power systems. Nearly 18 per cent of all U.S.-produced electricity today comes from renewable sources of energy, such as hydropower and wind— a figure that is expected to climb. And as cities and entire states are calling for higher percentages of renewable energy resources, storage will certainly play a major role.
Compared to the same period a year ago, in the third quarter of 2019, the United States saw a rise of 93 per cent in the amount of storage used. Through 2024, according to a prediction through market research firm Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, this number is expected to reach 5.4 gigawatts. The market value is expected to rise to $5.1 billion in 2024 from $720 million today. Increasing the emphasis on adding renewable energy sources to the grid of the nation is driving such growth.
According to Paul Denholm, a leading policy analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the widespread adoption of renewable energy sources has become an economic opportunity only in the past decade. He joined NREL 15 years ago and at the time was busy planning a route to 20 per cent of the nation’s energy supply from renewable sources, along with other experts. They’re going even higher now.
“Wind and solar and batteries ‘ declining costs make it feasible to accept 100% renewables,” he said.
NREL’s Renewable Electricity Futures Study estimated that by 2050 120 gigawatts of storage would be needed across the continental United States when the scenario imagined a future in which 80% of electricity would come from renewable resources. There are currently 22 gigawatts of pumped hydropower storage in the country and another gigawatt in batteries.
Hawaii, which has to import all its fossil fuels and therefore pays a high price for electricity, is experimenting with the use of battery storage to meet its energy objectives. Through 2045, the state aims at 100% clean energy, using renewable energy as well as increasing energy efficiency.