Energy Storage

New Technologies, New Sites Supporting Growth of Energy Storage

Advancements in energy storage, including new battery types and longer-duration batteries, are driving innovation in the sector. Retired power generation plants are being repurposed as storage sites, and the residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) sectors are turning to storage for electricity reliability and resilience.

The U.S. and global market for energy storage continues to grow, in large part aligning with increased deployment of renewable energy facilities. Battery energy storage systems (BESS), which store the energy from solar arrays, wind farms, and more, are being used to help balance the power grid, and provide more reliability and resiliency, along with other ancillary services.

Colin Touhey, CEO of Pvilion, a developer of innovative fabric-based solar power equipment and whose customers include the U.S. Air Force, told POWER, “Energy storage will become ubiquitous as an integral part of the grid. This growth will continue and will only slow when all potential grid options are saturated.”

What has been touted as the “Energy Storage Decade” by industry analysts and others has lived up to that billing, despite hiccups caused by the coronavirus pandemic and associated supply chain issues. The global battery energy storage system market was expected to increase from $3.36 billion in 2021 to $4.34 billion in 2022, representing year-over-year growth of about 29%, according to a January 2023 report from Research and Markets, a global market research group. The report said growth in the sector is expected to top $11 billion in 2026—or total growth of another 150% in the next four years.

Energy storage, whether from batteries, pumped hydropower, thermal systems, or other technology, is benefiting from the move toward the electrification of transportation, along with an emphasis on electrification of the commercial and industrial, as well as residential, sectors.

“Energy storage is the foundation from which all renewable-sourced decarbonization efforts must be built,” said Matt Clenchy, analyst with Orennia, a technology company that provides data and analytics on the energy transition for investors. “Renewable energy is intermittent … because of this, high levels of renewable penetration can threaten grid reliability, so grid operators rely on energy storage to shift energy to peak demand hours. For renewable energy to meaningfully displace baseload fossil fuel generation, it must be deployed alongside storage.”

Ryan Brown, CEO and co-founder of Canada’s Salient Energy, said, “The growth in energy storage will definitely continue. Energy storage is critical to integrating large amounts of wind and solar power into the grid.” Brown, whose company develops zinc-ion batteries for stationary energy storage, told POWER: “Governments have set aggressive targets for renewable penetration that will only be possible with significant investment in energy storage. I believe these targets will be taken seriously for two main reasons. First, the increasing occurrence of extreme weather is making climate change an increasingly important issue to everyday people. Second, Russia’s attempt to weaponize the EU’s [European Union’s] dependence on its natural gas has caused lawmakers to view the transition to renewable energy as critical to national security. So, the growth in energy storage will continue because it is driven by issues that are becoming increasingly important and urgent.”

“The demand for energy storage will continue to grow. According to the BloombergNEF  2H2022 Energy Storage Market Outlook forecast, energy storage installations are set to reach a cumulative 411 GW (or 1,194 GWh) of capacity at global level by the end of 2030,” said Matthew Towery, senior manager of Energy Storage at Enertis Applus+. “This is 15 times greater than the storage capacity that was online at the end of 2021 (27 GW or 56 GWh). The U.S. and China are set to remain the largest markets, representing over half of global storage installations worldwide by the end of the decade.”

New Battery Tech

New battery technologies are being deployed for both economic and safety reasons, with energy company executives telling POWER that alternatives to lithium-ion will be needed to satisfy the increased demand for storage.

“The ‘Decade of Energy Storage’? This is the ‘Energy Storage Era!’ ” said Josef Daniel-Ivad, manager of the Zinc Battery Initiative. “Stationary energy storage capacity is forecast for 1.2 TWh by 2030 and a mind-boggling 9 TWh by 2050. To meet this high demand, we need all types of sustainable, scalable batteries.”

“Building owners and operators are rejecting lithium-ion batteries due to their safety concerns, dwindling availability, and rising costs,” said Yaron Ben Nun, founder and chief technology officer for Nostromo Energy. “Instead, hotels, data centers, and other commercial buildings are turning to a new generation of alternative storage solutions that are non-flammable and non-toxic. With the emergence of new thermal energy storage technologies, in 2023, commercial buildings will turn to cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable ways to power their cooling systems, which can account for over half of their energy use.”

Daniel-Ivad, in noting new technologies in addition to traditional lithium-ion, told POWER, “Zinc batteries already provide superior stationary storage and are poised to meet e-mobility demands, given zinc’s abundance, secure and stable supply, non-flammability, and competitive advantages.”

Mukesh Chatter, co-founder, CEO, and president of Alsym Energy, said, “In 2023, we will witness the emergence of a new generation of non-lithium, non-flammable batteries that will take on the challenge of filling the gap and successfully facilitating the shift from fossil fuels to solar and wind.” Chatter told POWER, “As we strive to execute the clean energy transition, increasing the volume of available energy storage alone is not enough. BloombergNEF research suggests 20x growth in global energy storage capacity by 2030—this will only meet approximately 25% of the storage needed to support the rise in clean energy generation.”

Decarbonization and Sustainability

Demand is rising for energy storage as the technology is being included in decarbonization and sustainability programs. It also is being used to support the grid integration of more renewable energy resources.

Jason Burwen, vice president of Energy Storage at the American Clean Power Association, said recently, “Demand for energy storage is at an all-time high, driven by sustained higher energy prices, state decarbonization mandates, and Inflation Reduction Act incentives. California’s reliance on energy storage to meet record peak demand this September [2022] shows why it’s absolutely critical that policymakers and grid operators remove barriers to supply to ensure reliability. The rapid increase in grid-scale storage capacity requesting to connect to the grid demonstrates that the pace of U.S. industry growth is increasingly dependent on the availability of transmission and timely grid access.”

“The growth targets for energy storage in 2023 and 2024 are exponentially higher than in previous years. These targets are largely driven by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) bill,” said Towery. “However, in order to meet the targets, supply chain constraints will be tested over the next several years. In addition, independent system operator markets will need to continue to find ways to expedite or prioritize interconnection applications to avoid delays in committed projects.

“The IRA bill unleashed a new demand for storage products and their constituent raw materials. Production of these products is concentrated in only a few countries,” said Towery. “However, this should level out in the coming year or two, as more domestic battery manufacturing ramps up, all of which will take time.”

Some of the increase in storage capacity will come from projects that are helping repurpose sites where thermal power plants have been retired. The last two operating coal-fired power plants in New Jersey will get new life as home to battery energy storage systems, and a major BESS project is being built in Australia at the site of a former coal-fired generation facility.

The Logan Generating Plant in Logan Township in New Jersey’s Gloucester County was imploded in December 2022. Starwood Energy, the plant’s owner, has said the site will be turned into a battery energy storage facility as part of a $1 billion project. Starwood said it will do the same with the Chambers Cogeneration Plant in Carneys Point, which Starwood also closed last year and will dismantle.

1. The Waratah energy storage facility is being built in Australia at the site of a former coal-fired power plant. It is expected to come online in 2025. Courtesy: Powin  

U.S. battery specialist Powin, and energy investment firm BlackRock, have started work on a 909-MW/1,915-MWh BESS in Australia. BlackRock-owned Akaysha Energy is developing the Waratah Super Battery Project (Figure 1) north of Sydney, on the site of the former 1.4-GW Munmorah coal-fired power station.

Some projects are being designed specifically to meet market requirements for fast frequency response. Glidepath Energy recently launched operation of its new Byrd Ranch Storage Project, a standalone energy storage facility near Houston, Texas, for which IHI Terrasun was the integrator, power plant controls software developer, and lifetime services provider. Energy storage is considered an important part of keeping the troubled Texas power grid more reliable and resilient. Terrasun’s software will meet the Energy Reliability Council of Texas’ (ERCOT’s) strict market requirements for fast frequency response.

“It’s likely that battery installations will continue to permeate a variety of applications, not just as replacements for thermal generation through large-scale projects,” said Ray Saka, Terrasun’s vice president of Sales and Service. “Green Mountain Power, a utility in Vermont, ran a pilot virtual power plant (VPP) project to install 2,000 batteries in customers’ homes who had solar panels on their roofs. The utility discharged the batteries from their own controller during peak summer heat events, thereby decreasing the need for the ISO [independent system operator] to dispatch peaker plants, saving the ratepayers money and headaches for the operators.”

“One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is the emergence of thermal storage as a critical piece of the energy transition, particularly when it comes to industrial decarbonization,” said Andrew Ponec, co-founder and CEO of  Antora Energy, a California-based thermal battery group. “Historically, the storage community has focused on the grid, but industry is emerging as the elephant in the room. Thermal energy storage, especially in industry, has incredible potential due to fundamentally lower costs and greater scalability relative to conventional electrochemical storage.”

Ponec told POWER: “Unlike cobalt or lithium, which face a variety of supply chain constraints, thermal storage materials are abundant and can be sourced domestically. And thermal storage solutions are also energy-dense, reducing the siting, permitting, and land use challenges that have hindered other alternative storage technologies. In short, thermal energy storage is a clear winner in applications demanding low cost, simplicity, and scalability, which is why it will play such an important role in decarbonizing industry.”

Long-Duration Systems

Energy industry experts agree that development of long-duration storage is critical for sector growth. Joe Zhou, CEO of Quidnet Energy, told POWER about his company’s geomechanical pumped storage (GPS) technology.

“Most energy storage now being deployed is short duration, meaning batteries that can typically provide power for up to four hours. While this is useful for shorter-term backup, peak shaving, and some ancillary services, long-duration storage is essential for the widespread integration of large-scale clean energy,” Zhou said.

“Such resources also need to be cost-effective, and ideally leverage existing technology. That’s where geomechanical pumped storage comes in,” said Zhou. “GPS takes a proven concept for long-duration storage, pumped hydro, and makes it possible to more widely deploy it at a fraction of the cost. While pumped hydro is the dominant form of long-duration energy storage, relying mostly on gravity to generate power from hydroelectric turbines, it can only be deployed in areas with mountainous terrain. GPS removes this constraint, as it can be installed in areas of flat land.”

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) late last year announced Quidnet Energy would receive $10 million in funding from the agency’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The funding is part of the ARPA-E Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential (SCALEUP) program, which provides further funding to previous ARPA-E teams that have been determined to be feasible for widespread U.S. deployment and commercialization. Companies in the SCALEUP program demonstrate a viable path to commercial deployment for their technology, and the ability to attract private sector investments.

“We’re honored that ARPA-E has selected Quidnet Energy as an awardee of the SCALEUP program,” said Zhou. “This funding will support continued work on our [GPS] project with CPS Energy, which will demonstrate the benefits of using proven pumped hydro technology to create a long-duration energy storage resource that doesn’t require mountainous terrain.”

Quidnet Energy will scale its GPS to a 1-MW/10-MWh commercial system that will provide CPS Energy with 10-plus hours of long-duration energy storage.

2. Tesla built the 98-MW/196-MWh Pillswood battery facility in the UK using its Megapack technology. It is expected to support the massive Dogger Bank offshore wind project. Courtesy: Harmony Energy Income Trust 

A Tesla battery is featured at an energy storage project in northeast England, near the grid connection point for the massive Dogger Bank offshore wind farm. Tesla built the 98-MW/196-MWh Pillswood battery (Figure 2) using its Megapack technology for Harmony Energy Income Trust, which is investing in large-scale storage assets around the UK.

The site is located near Hull, close to the Creyke Beck substation that will connect 2.4 GW of the eventual 3.6 GW of the Dogger Bank project, which will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm when it comes online in the next few years. Harmony Energy, a UK-based energy storage developer, said the battery will help UK power network operator National Grid “maximize the efficiency of wind farms by reducing the amount of time [they] need to be curtailed due to supply/demand imbalances or network constraints.”

3. This Redflow battery system is powering Anaergia’s Rialto Bioenergy Facility in California. Courtesy: Zinc Battery Initiative 

Australia-based Redflow has a 2-MWh flow battery-based ESS (Figure 3) at Anaergia’s Rialto Bioenergy Facility in San Bernardino County, California. The system includes 192 zinc-bromine flow batteries housed in a dozen 160-kWh Redflow Energy Pod units, which are clustered into four strings, and tied to four 125-kW Dynapower inverters. The Rialto Bioenergy Facility is converting as much as 700 tons of food waste and 300 tons of biosolids per day into renewable natural gas, renewable electricity, and organic fertilizer.

Challenges Remain

Even with substantial growth expected for energy storage, there remain hurdles. Andy Tang, vice president of Energy Storage and Optimization with Wärtsilä, told POWER, “Persistent supply chain constraints caused by the COVID pandemic and fierce competition for raw battery materials with the transition to electric vehicles will continue to cause energy storage project delays in 2023.”

Tang continued: “There’s been a major policy push to establish regional supply chains in Europe and the U.S., but the new factories won’t come online until 2024 or 2025 at the earliest. We anticipate increased investment in alternative battery chemistries next year to alleviate these concerns.”

“Energy storage systems are an imperative part of the emerging energy mix, primarily as a mechanism to maintain grid security and address the intermittency of renewable energy to a large extent,” said Tejas Kusurkar, CEO and co-founder of Offgrid Energy Labs (Read this POWER Interview with Kusurkar). “Batteries for power backup applications is a major market among stationary applications. While market mechanisms are expected to incentivize the adoption of ESS, regulatory and industry foresight will be key drivers to accelerating growth.”

Pvilion’s Tuohey also noted how regulation could slow growth in energy storage. “The regulatory hurdles make energy storage more expensive than it needs to be,” Tuohey said. “As an example, solar installations on homes are ubiquitous and easy to do. The same types of building code changes that occurred in the solar industry need to happen in the storage industry.”

A project recently announced in New York is supported by a state program designed to encourage development of distributed energy resources, including energy storage, to increase power grid resiliency. CIT, a division of First Citizens Bank, in December 2022 said its Power and Energy business served as co-coordinating lead arranger on an $85 million construction-to-term debt financing for NineDot Energy, which develops distributed community energy projects in the New York City area. NineDot, a portfolio company of the global investment firm Carlyle Group, will use the funding to develop 11 standalone battery storage projects totaling 43 MW of capacity across the Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, and Long Island.

“NineDot Energy’s battery storage installations will be an increasingly important contributor to the New York City metro area’s grid resiliency and a valuable infrastructure component to support renewable power in urban settings,” said David Arfin, NineDot Energy CEO and co-founder.

The New York project is an example of the partnerships Touhey said will be needed to support investment in energy storage, with utilities and other energy companies working together with government and private groups to promote financial backing. “It will need to be a partnership model, with the government providing incentives and doing their own projects as well as private industry leading the charge on new innovation and growth,” he said.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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