Texas’ leading role in the United States renewable energy revolution, as well as its competitive energy market, has placed the Lone Star State in a prime position to be at the forefront of the rapidly growing battery storage sector. Of the six major battery projects completed in the United States from January through March, four were in Texas. In the first few months of the year alone, Texas added enough battery storage to power nearly 100,000 homes – and that’s with the air conditioning running full blast.
Energy storage is a key emerging sector that is set to soar as renewable energies become more prominent in the national energy mix. In fact, any viable pathway to complete decarbonization will hinge upon advances in the energy storage sector. This is due to the fact that key renewable energies like wind and solar power are variable – meaning that their production levels wax and wane according to weather patterns, seasons, and the time of day. Problematically, the times that these energies are least productive are frequently the times that energy demand is rising. For example, just as the sun is setting on your local solar farm, everyone is turning on the lights in their homes and firing up appliances to get ready for dinner.
Because of this variability, it’s been extremely hard to imagine how we will ever completely transition away from base load powers like oil and gas, which are there when we need them in whatever quantity we need them. But if we are able to store surplus renewable energy when production is high and then feed it back into the grid when demand outstrips supply, then decarbonization doesn’t seem so far-fetched. This is where battery storage comes in and why it is set to be such a lucrative industry.
However, battery storage has some significant drawbacks. These batteries rely on a steady and affordable supply of finite rare earth minerals such as lithium, which is becoming ever more in-demand as the energy storage sector competes with electric vehicles, photovoltaics, and numerous other sectors for the key resource. After prices peaked at an all-time high in 2022, lithium prices have actually been on a downward trend for the majority of 2023, providing a significant boost to the burgeoning battery storage sector.
As an added drawback, battery storage is short-term, holding energy for a matter of hours as opposed to days, weeks, or months. Long-term storage is considered to be essential for overcoming variability on a large scale as it would enable much greater grid flexibility. For example, surplus solar power could be collected in the long, sunny days of the summer months until it’s needed to heat homes during the shorter, most overcast days of the winter months. Energy storage is still a new economic sector, however, and longer-term storage technologies are still under development. And battery storage solutions are ready here and now, meaning that they will be an important sector in the renewable transition in the near term.
And Texas is ready to cash in on that opportunity. The state’s amble renewable energy production capacity is already a draw for energy storage investors, and that attention has only grown thanks to increased tax incentives for battery storage included in the Inflation Reduction Act, introduced last year. Although Texas is making major advances in the energy storage sector, California still leads in terms of volume, with a total installed capacity of 5,200 megawatts of battery storage. And the Golden State is likely to maintain its lead this year thanks to the upcoming addition of a 350-megawatt facility in Moss Landing, California built by Irving-based Vistra Energy. But in the coming years, it’s easy to see how California could be overtaken by Texas for energy storage supremacy.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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