October 19, 2018 Read More →

Storage the ‘tipping point’ for renewable energy

S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):

The emergence of lithium-ion batteries and other new energy storage technologies represents a “third tipping point” for wind and solar energy that is needed to transform renewables into the world’s largest source of power, a veteran energy venture investor and technology entrepreneur said.

“Storage is really everything. It will change everything if we dramatically ramp up the amount of storage that we have,” Bill Gross, founder and chairman of Idealab, a Pasadena, Calif., venture capital firm and startup incubator, said Oct. 17 at a sustainability conference in Oakland, Calif.

The “first tipping point” for renewable energy came in recent years, “when building wind and solar became cheaper than building new anything else,” Gross said. The second tipping point is occurring now, because “building new wind and solar are cheaper than existing power plants.”

Until energy storage advances, however, the variability of wind and solar power will limit renewables’ further ascent, Gross said. “It can’t replace baseload. It can’t replace a gas power plant yet.”

Barbara Lockwood, vice president of regulation for Pinnacle West Capital Corp. subsidiary Arizona Public Service Co., agreed. “As a utility, we look at tried-and-true technology, and that’s what we deploy for reliability purposes. Having said that, batteries just are an amazing technology … They very much are going to be part of the future.”

In addition to contracting with First Solar Inc. for a 65-MW solar array coupled with 50 MW of batteries that is expected online in 2021, Arizona Public Service is considering energy storage offers to two requests issued this year, one for new installations and one to add storage at existing solar facilities. “We are amazed at how the prices are coming down,” Lockwood said.

More ($): Energy storage seen as ‘third tipping point’ for renewables 

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