The use of renewable energy to generate electricity in this country is growing fast. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 22% of the electricity generated last year came from renewable sources. With that said, the dependence on natural and weather elements…wind and sunshine…can create challenges to obtaining the electricity needed WHEN it is needed.
Batteries are one solution to the challenge. Battery storage, or battery energy storage systems, sometimes called BESS, are the enablers for renewable sources, like solar and wind, to store energy when it’s available and release it when it’s needed most.
“When wind and solar energy first started getting hooked into the electricity grid, you could balance the demand for electricity on a cloudy or still day by firing up a natural gas plant,” said Severin Borenstein, a professor at University of California, Berkeley. But renewable energy usage has ramped up. “We’re having a harder time just balancing the grid, using the natural gas power plants, ramping them up and down,” he said.
That’s where batteries come in. During daylight hours, solar panels generate electricity from sunlight. Excess energy produced, especially during sunny days, can be stored in batteries for later use when the sun is not shining. Wind turbines generate electricity when the wind is blowing. Excess energy during periods of high wind can be stored in batteries to ensure a continuous power supply during calm periods.
Battery energy storage systems can also enhance the stability and reliability of the electrical grid. They can respond rapidly to fluctuations in energy demand, providing a quick injection of stored energy to maintain a consistent power supply.
Despite these advantages, challenges remain. Just as for many other manufactured items, supply chain and inflation are just two of those challenges. In addition, the U.S. grid interconnection backlog was reported to increase by 40% this past year with the typical project completed in 2022 spending five years in the interconnection approval queue. According to Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory, the total capacity of projects awaiting interconnection now exceeds the capacity of the entire U.S. power plant fleet. Solar and battery storage represent 80% of the new projects added to the queue in 2022.
Despite these challenges, battery energy storage will play a growing crucial role in addressing the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources like wind and solar. By the end of this year, utility battery storage is expected to nearly double, according to the Energy Information Center (EIA). Its success is essential in the path to a greener world.