Inside Clean Energy: US Battery Storage Soared in 2021, Including These Three Monster Projects
Battery storage is quickly moving from the margins to near the center of the U.S. energy system.
In 2021, the market added 3,508 megawatts of battery storage capacity, an amount more than double from the prior year, according to a report issued last week by the research firm Wood Mackenzie and the American Clean Power Association, a trade group. The total includes grid-scale storage and smaller storage systems at homes and businesses.
“We are seeing that storage has evolved to be an essential part of the energy transition and something that utilities are leaning on in their resource planning,” said Chloe Holden, a Wood Mackenzie analyst and co-author of the report, in an interview.
Storage is essential because it allows grid operators to store wind and solar power at times when those resources are plentiful, and then discharge when needed.
The rapid growth in battery storage has gone on for years, rising from 257 megawatts in 2016, which seemed huge at the time, to last year’s total—an increase of more than 1,200 percent.
But this isn’t the same story repeated with ever-larger numbers. Despite continuing growth, developers of grid-scale battery projects struggled in 2021 to deal with rising costs of raw materials like lithium, and delays in international shipping. If not for those challenges, this year of record results would have been much bigger, the report said.
In addition to the growth in capacity, which refers to how much power a system is capable of discharging at any one moment, new projects are also able to run for longer on a single charge. On average, the new projects in 2021 could run at full capacity for about three hours before needing to recharge, which is an increase from about 2.5 hours for projects that went online in 2020.
Projects are getting larger, and three of them are in a category of their own in terms of size:
The Blythe and McCoy storage projects, developed by NextEra Energy, went online in several phases last year and are located next to each other near Blythe, California, near the Arizona border. If counted together, they have 523 megawatts of capacity in systems that can run for four hours on a charge.