There are two basic types of energy storage – front of the meter, commonly known as grid-scale storage, and behind the meter, in which individual property owners and businesses make use of storage options installed on their own premises to better manage onsite solar systems and take advantage of lower utility rates available when demand for electricity is low.
Looking down the road, Researchers sees battery storage growing nearly tenfold in the next 5 years, from 295 megawatts in 2017 to 2.5 gigawatts in 2022, of which almost half is projected to be “behind the meter.”
“Traditionally, utilities have relied on procurement of centralized generation resources to meet demand. But with the advent of energy efficiency and renewable resources in the past couple of decades, the suite of tools available to utilities has generally expanded to include demand-side management.
Grid-scale energy storage allows utility companies to even out the flow of electricity sloshing around the utility grid. It will be a vital part of converting the utility industry from one in which a few large generating stations supply power to millions of customers spread over hundred of miles into one that features thousand of power producers who share their electricity locally. That shift will usher in the era of many smaller microgrids linked by a few long-distance interconnecting transmission lines, which will reduce the cost of building and maintaining such a large energy grid with its many substations and transformers.
Energy storage will also solve the grid resiliency issue that many utility experts claim will cause blackouts if too much renewable energy is fed into the grid.
In fact, grid-scale storage will make it possible to take all those old coal-fired plants that idle along all day every day to provide baseload electricity to the grid off-line, eliminating their abundant carbon, sulfur, and particulate emissions.
Tesla successfully demonstrated this by installing what today is the world’s largest grid-scale battery storage facility in South Australia in 2017.
Not only has it proven to work better than anyone dared hope, it was installed in just over 80 days from the date the contracts were signed. Construction of traditional power plants can take 5 years or more. For a nuclear power plant, the timeline is measured in decades, not years.