The fact that renewables and the ecosystem around them (especially storage) is finally becoming economical is amazing. We’re already subsidizing fossil fuels by trillions of dollars due to the unaccounted costs of negative externalities (global warming, public health, etc). These technologies are becoming economically competitive *even though* fossil fuels have this huge built-in subsidy. Very close to a miracle, this is.
“Storage has plenty of benefits – higher reliability, lower costs, fewer outages, more resilience.
But I wouldn’t have written these three thousand words without a deep interest in carbon-free energy. And the increasing economic viability of energy storage is profoundly to the benefit of both solar and wind.
Let me be clear: A great deal can be done with solar and wind with minimal storage, by integrating over a wider region and intelligently balancing wind and solar against one another.
Even so, cheap storage is a big help. It removes a long term concern. And in the short term, storage helps whichever energy source is cheapest overcome intermittence and achieve flexibility.
Batteries are flexible. Storage added to add reliability the grid can soak up extra solar power for the hours just after sunset. It can soak up extra wind power from a breezy morning to use in the afternoon peak. Or it can dispatch saved up power to cover for an unexpected degree of cloudiness or a shortfall of wind.
Once the storage is there – whatever else it was intended for – it will get used for renewables. Particularly as those renewables become the cheapest sources of electricity on the grid.
Today, in many parts of the US, wind power is the cheapest source of new electricity, when the wind is blowing. The same is true in northern Europe. On the horizon, an increasing chorus of voices, even the normally pessimistic-on-renewables IEA, see solar as the cheapest source of electricity on the planet, heading towards 4 cents per kwh. Or, if you believe more optimistic voices, a horizon of solar at 2 cents per kwh.
Cheap energy storage adds flexibility to our energy system overall. It can help nuclear power follow the curve of electrical demand (something I didn’t explore here). It helps the grid stay stable and available. It adds caching at the edge, reducing congestion and the need for new transmission.
But for renewables, especially, cheap storage is a force multiplier.
And that’s a disruption I’m excited to see.”