Battery storage capacity on the Texas electricity grid is about to experience a significant uptick, and it could even outpace natural gas growth over the coming five years.
According to proposals submitted to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), close to 7,800 megawatts of battery storage projects are in the pipeline over the next five years, a figure higher than planned natural gas developments.
While a significant portion of proposed energy projects usually never make it to completion, there are several reasons to believe that investments in battery storage will rise sharply.
First, the increased presence of renewables on the Texas grid is increasing the need for storage to help balance out their unpredictability. The state’s vast wind power sector, which generated almost as much energy as coal in 2019, produces the largest amount of energy during the night, when winds are highest but energy use is lowest.
Increased battery capacity would allow wind power providers to store excess energy to sell in the afternoon when prices are higher, bringing windfalls to both wind generators and battery operators. Conversely, solar power generated at midday when the sun is at its most powerful could be stored for release after the sun goes down during peak evening demand.
Additionally, the fact that the ERCOT market is run separately means it can press ahead with its own approach to integrating battery storage without waiting on federal regulators.
Further, battery storage continues to decline in cost. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that in March 2019, the price per megawatt hour for energy stored in lithium ion batteries fell by 35 percent compared to one year earlier.
Some observers believe that the price for batteries will make them competitive with natural gas plants by 2024. This could result in batteries taking over the role of gas “peaker” plants, which provide energy when demand is at its highest and output from renewables falters.