In the United States, battery capacity increased significantly in 2020

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2020 was a big year for large batteries in the United States, which is crucial for grids to run more on renewable energy. Power capacity — a measure of how much a battery can discharge immediately — growth in large batteries grew at an unprecedented rate in the United States last year report released this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

2020 broke the previous record set in 2018 for the largest increase in power capacity in the United States by adding 489 MW of large-scale battery storage. It is more than twice as much as in 2018. By the end of last year, the United States had a large-scale battery capacity of 1,533 MW. For comparison ,. The largest solar power plant in the United States it has a capacity of 579 MW and can generate enough electricity for about 255,000 homes.

This is good news for renewable energy, but much more batteries are needed to clean the electricity grid. “It’s great that it’s growing. But on a grid scale, it’s still a pretty small drop in the bucket, ”says Gerbrand Ceder, professor of materials science and technology at the University of California, Berkeley. Ceder says the total battery capacity in the U.S. at the end of 2020 is still “up to one or two large power plants.”

The batteries store renewable energy, so it can be used when the wind slows down and the sunlight dims. They are also clean an alternative to fossil fuels who come online regularly to provide extra juice when there is a lot of demand. Large batteries can also work when a disaster strikes another power source offline. So in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they can make the network more reliable and sustainable.

Electricity currently accounts for a quarter greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. But a clean grid could combat emissions from other sectors, such as transport and heating, as cars, homes and buildings become fully electric.

The Biden administration has set the goal of making the energy sector “carbon-free” by 2035, with the aim of slowing down already catastrophic effects climate change. This can be achieved by turning to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Or the goal could potentially be achieved by combining renewable energy sources with more controversial carbon-free energy from nuclear and fossil fuel power plants, combined with technology that emits carbon dioxide from its emissions. But concerned about the cost, safety and pollution of nuclear and carbon capture strategies, many environmentalists hope that batteries can ensure that the share of renewable energy in the grid increases.

The EIA found that battery storage costs have fallen by 72 percent since 2015, which helps explain why the vast majority of large-scale battery charging capacities currently available came into the grid only in the last six years. According to Ceder, electric vehicles have helped reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries in the energy sector.

As costs fall, battery capacity is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years. The equipment will have 10,000 MW of large-scale storage space until 2023, depending on what the facilities have reported to the EIA. It will have ten times the capacity in 2019, and most of it will be connected to photovoltaic generators.

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