A bright future for batteries

The future looks bright for batteries, both utility-scale and — with a little boost from the IRS — in homes with rooftop solar. California, meanwhile, keeps breaking solar records, and GE is designing a giant new offshore wind turbine that would reach the height of skyscrapers and could power as many as 5,000 homes.

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A bright future for batteries
As prices drop and utilities invest in more renewable energy, battery storage is poised for exponential growth. Over the past five years, the U.S. deployed over 1,000 megawatt-hours of energy storage. This year alone, GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association forecast that number will almost double.

That’s good news for solar power (keep reading to see how California’s been setting solar records and searching for ways to use its excess midday energy).

Continuing this kind of growth will take supportive policies, though, as The Brattle Group explains in a new analysis. Federal regulators recently moved to open wholesale energy markets to energy storage, putting it on an equal playing field with generators and other resources that keep the power flow balanced on the grid. If state regulatory policies take similar steps, U.S. energy storage market could grow to 50,000 megawatts over the next decade, Brattle say.

The U.S. currently has about 700 megawatts of utility-scale battery storage capacity on the grid. (It also has more than 23,000 megawatts of hydroelectric pumped energy storage capacity. The Washington Post puts megawatts and megawatt-hours into more context here.) Arizona could soon be adding to it. After a three-year legal battle between Tesla and the power company Salt River Project over the utility’s practice of imposing fees on potential solar power purchasers, the two have reached an agreement, the Arizona Republic reports. If the deal goes through, Salt River Project agrees to install a 25 megawatt Tesla battery system capable of powering about 6,000 homes, and to provide incentives for customers to buy home batteries.

KEY QUOTE: “We’re going to have to strike the word ‘nascent’ from our vocabularies when describing the U.S. energy storage market. Falling costs and favorable policies will be among the core drivers of the market’s breakout in 2018. It’s not hard to imagine that every solar RFP by the end of the year will include storage.” —Ravi Manghani, GTM Research’s director of energy storage

IRS gives home batteries (and solar) a boost
Credit: Bryan Alexander/CC BY 2.0
The IRS just gave homeowners another reason to cut ties with the grid: a fat tax credit for adding battery storage to existing rooftop solar. In a private letter ruling, the federal tax agency said that a customer with an existing home solar array is eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit when they buy and install a battery system, provided it only stores solar energy from their own roof. InsideClimate News has the story on what’s been called a milestone for solar-plus-storage.

KEY QUOTE: “The 30 percent credit is like jumping ahead five years on the cost curve for home battery systems—so on that count, customers will be able to afford longer-duration systems sooner and present greater opportunity for self-reliance.”  —Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of Energy Storage Association