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Batteries Out-Distance Gas-Burning Generators

From southern California to Arizona, energy storage units are popping up to make renewables more available when power demand peaks.

Electric batteries linked to renewables can be cheaper than conventional natural gas burning peaker generators, the workhorses of the utility sector in periods of high power demand.

Utilities are scrambling to deploy batteries at a fast clip as a result, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Tucson Electric Power is building a 100-megawatt solar installation backed up with 30-megawatt capacity energy storage facility.

Meanwhile, Fluence Energy, a joint venture of Siemens and AES, is building the largest lithium ion battery in the world that will provide backup power to 60,000 southern California homes, the Journal reported. That battery is triple the size of a mammoth energy storage installation Tesla recently built in Australia.

This trend of changing out energy generation infrastructure in favor of green, climate-change fighting sources of renewable energy is accelerating.

“It really is a substitution for building a new peaking-power plant,” John Zahurancik, chief operating officer of Fluence, told the newspaper. “Instead of living next to a smokestack, you will live near what looks like a big-box store and is filled with racks and rows of batteries.”

Peakers, as their name indicates, are used in times of peak demand for power – such as late afternoon on a hot summer day.

Peakers fired by natural gas have been popular because a glut of cheap gas has flooded energy markets from recently developed shale fracking techniques.

But utility experts say one-third of today’s fossil fuel peakers in a decade could be replaced by solar and wind generation tied to electric batteries.

“The federal government estimates that a new gas-fired peaking plant could generate electricity for about $87 for a megawatt hour, including the cost of building the plant and buying fuel,” the Journal reported. “By comparison, Xcel Energy’s Colorado subsidiary recently ran an open solicitation and received 87 bids for solar-plus-storage projects at a median price of $36 per megawatt hour, one of the lowest such bids to date.”



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