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Is 35 GW of Energy Storage Possible by 2035?

Energy storage could save the grid $4 billion in all and add as as many as 167,000 new jobs. That is according to the Energy Storage Association that says as much as 35 gigawatts of new energy storage could be added by 2025, all of which would alleviate the pressures that the current system faces. 

In its so-called “35×25: A Vision for Energy Storage” white paper, the Energy Storage Association did note that the US now has about 0.5 gigawatts of installed energy storage, deployed at both the retail and wholesale levels. In conjunction with its partner, Navigant Research, it says that getting to 35 gigawatts is possible because markets need it. The drivers include:

The electrification of the transportation sector, data centers, HVAC, communications and industry and manufacturing that need a more flexible grid. The good news is that 71 megawatts of storage projects were deployed in the first quarter, according to GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association. That’s second biggest advance ever, Utility Dive reports. 

Energy storage systems not only harness power but also inject that energy into the grid so that providers can efficiently meet their demands. If it becomes more widespread, grid disruptions would be mitigated and save as much as $150 billion a year to the American economy, the Energy Storage Association says.

If energy storage proves itself in the market, it would mean a brighter future for renewable energies that are considered intermittent power sources. It would also allow utilities to forego investments in power plants as well as transmission and distribution lines, because such assets would be more efficiently run. How so?

Energy storage gives utilities, power marketers and industrial customers the flexibility to respond to power shortages, price spikes or brownouts. Utilities, for instance, must precisely measure their load generation with their customers’ needs  — a difficult task given that energy usage fluctuates, especially at industrial sites that routinely implement new processes. Without adequate capacity, all wholesale buyers of electricity would be subject to the whims of the market.

“Energy storage is the key to creating a powerful energy ecosystem whose backbone is an efficient, resilient, affordable, and sustainable grid. The ESA Vision will require a great deal of collaboration and commitment from all parties,” Kelly Speakes-Backman, chief executive of the Energy Storage Association said.  “We stand ready to work with our members and key stakeholders to drive this vision forward, achieve our ambitious 35×25 goal, and truly transform the power sector.”

By most accounts, however, energy storage is still too expensive and too untested. But some power suppliers are saying that with a little help from the federal government, the tools might make their way into the mainstream. Once that occurs, prices will continue to fall and economies of scale will form.

California aims to advance the cause: The California Public Utility Commission now requires PG&E Corp. San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison to collectively buy 1,325 megawatts of energy storage by 2020, including 200 megawatt this year. California’s focus is on reducing harmful air emissions and on increasing the use of green energy there. An application could be anything from shaving peak load to storing and injecting wind and solar electrons onto the grid.

The goals: To optimize the grid so that it can shave peak energy usage while also delivering electricity when it is most needed — something that will help to defer investments in transmission infrastructure. Those efficiencies not only make room for more green electrons but they are also allowing storage devices to inject renewable power onto the network. Storing energy and sending it when needed will also help the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent before 2050, from 1990 levels.

“A modern, resilient grid that meets the needs of today’s users is vital to the health and well being of our nation’s infrastructure and storage is crucial to making it a reality,” Praveen Kathpal, vice president of AES Energy Storage and chairman of the board of directors at Energy Storage Association said. “The deployment of 35 GW of new energy storage by 2025 will fundamentally transform how we generate, deliver and consume energy, lowering costs and improving air quality and emissions for every user of the grid.”

Getting to 35 gigawatts is a big goal that necessitates more demand and cheaper products. With the likes of Tesla and others creating new supply chains, the aim is possible — but still a stretch.

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