The addition of large amounts of renewable energy production to America’s power grid has made what was once an extremely reliable and stable system much less so. The power outages suffered by Texas in 2021 were widely blamed on the addition of renewable power resources that failed to perform when needed. The outages caused 57 deaths and over $195 billion in damage, according to the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. Into the gap created by the loss of so many “peaker” coal power plants (those that would be used to level out peaks in energy demand) could step massive farms of batteries attached to the grid. Jennifer Hiller reports in The Wall Street Journal:
The U.S. power grid relied on a new Band-Aid to help it through this summer’s punishing heat: giant batteries.
Battery storage has emerged as a tiny but important slice of the electrical-power mix during summer heat waves, helping bridge the gap at sundown when solar generation fades but everyone continues to crank air conditioners.
Electric-grid operators from Pennsylvania to California have skated through a season of high temperatures with a combination of existing and new energy supplies, including batteries, that have added up to enough to avoid rolling blackouts. Large-scale batteries have filled in when large power plants tripped offline and helped stabilize the grid.
In Texas, which saw 10 demand records this summer, batteries helped narrowly avoid rolling blackouts one evening at sunset. The state’s batteries discharge almost entirely in the evenings, especially around 7 p.m. when solar generation nosedives and there is little wind generation, which usually picks up overnight.
“Batteries weren’t the only reason why there haven’t been blackouts this year, but it was a critical piece of keeping the lights on,” said Jeff Bishop, chief executive of battery developer Key Capture Energy, which has about 380 megawatts of storage in operation in Texas.
Before 2020, large-scale batteries barely existed. Now U.S. developers are planning record amounts of large installations across 29 states, according to the American Clean Power Association and energy consultant Wood Mackenzie. The sector has seen a sharp increase in additions even as the pace of delivering other clean-energy projects has slowed.
Companies connected nearly 1,500 megawatts of battery storage to the grid in the second quarter, enough to power about 300,000 homes during peak demand, up 60% from the same period last year, according to S&P Global.
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