For utilities, adding energy storage systems to their power infrastructure is a sensible way to increase grid capacity and enhance reliability. Large-scale batteries are being installed at a record pace, and there are great reasons for this. Seeing how and why grid operators around the country are turning to this solution may inspire you to do the same at home and take total control over your home energy.

A close look at California

Extreme heat in 2020 resulted in two load shedding events during which California residents experienced rolling power outages. In the months that followed, California’s independent system operator (CAISO) prepared a report for Governor Gavin Newsom to shed light on what happened. It maintained that a West-wide heatwave placed a large resource strain on many states, while adding that resource planning targets have not kept pace with the realities of the state’s clean energy resource mix. When solar power begins to dwindle as the sun sets, appliances like air conditioners tax the grid – and this problem is exacerbated during a heatwave. What’s truly needed is an hour-by-hour energy planning model that takes this into account, and which the relevant state commissioners subsequently designed.

The California Energy Commission is one entity that worked to revise its near-term resource planning in response. According to the organization, heatwaves and prolonged droughts are becoming increasingly common. A milder summer in 2021 meant no load shedding was necessary, but the hour-by-hour forecast for 2022 shows that hundreds or even thousands of megawatts (MW) of emergency backup power may be required should extreme weather events occur.

This potential energy shortfall demonstrates that resilience is key. This is where battery storage systems come into play. CAISO has around 1,500 MW of battery energy at its disposal, but that number won’t stay stagnant for long: it’s set to double by the end of 2021. In fact, the state may require over 14,000 MW of energy storage capacity by 2032 if its climate goals are to be met.

Solar and storage playing a major role in new projects

The situation in California is also playing out in states across the US that are attempting to meet climate goals and/or searching for ways to increase grid reliability. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that 10,000 MW of battery energy will be added to the national grid by 2023 — ten times the installed capacity in 2019.

Perhaps even more interesting is what kind of energy these new batteries will be storing. Most of the new energy storage systems built over the next few years will be co-located with solar power facilities. This means that just under half of the 10,000 MW of solar power slated to come online will have the potential to be stored for more efficient use, bucking a nearly two-decade trend in which standalone battery storage dominated at the utility level.

Parallels for homeowners ​

The vote of confidence in large-scale battery storage is worth your attention. While batteries can prove useful for utilities for a variety of reasons, some of these benefits can also serve your needs as a homeowner looking to take curb the use of expensive and potentially unreliable grid power.

A home backup battery allows you to reduce or defer the use of grid electricity during times of high demand when rates may increase. Similarly, utilities make use of battery storage to avoid purchasing emergency power from the wholesale market.

There’s also the concept of arbitrage, which involves recharging energy storage systems during periods when electricity costs less and using that stored energy when prices are high. Owners of residential standalone backup batteries enjoy this form of energy time-shifting, especially when the power is sourced from excess energy created by their solar panels.

Finally, the ability to enjoy backup power in the event of a catastrophic power failure provides a sense of security in critical situations for utilities and homeowners alike. During a blackout, those with backup batteries can keep themselves and their families safe and comfortable for hours. If they own an electric vehicle, they can use the dozens of kilowatt-hours worth of power stored in its battery to power their home for days at a time.

Solar and storage likely to become the norm ​

Incredibly, the EIA is predicting that 38 gigawatts of large-scale battery storage capacity will be paired with solar in the US by 2050. You too can mimic what grid operators are doing by partaking in this savvy investment and enjoy energy independence at home. Read one of our previous posts to learn more about home energy storage as well as the case for residential solar.


Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash