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Rapid Growth Expected For Electric Storage In California

Razor512/Flickr
 

Razor512/Flickr

Solar and wind power have grown rapidly in California over the past decade, and now batteries to store some of that energy are expected to follow suit.

Southern California Edison already plans for the Los Angeles basin to host the largest battery storage site in the country starting in 2021. The utility expects it will need to produce more electricity in the LA region—but only during peak times.

Robert Villegas of Southern California Edison says the utility sought offers for fossil-fuel plants, as well as renewable energy, but it found battery storage was roughly the same price.

"Building a new power plant in the middle of the West L.A. Basin area is a difficult undertaking and an expensive undertaking," says Villegas. "So it allows for other technology types to be able to be priced competitively."

The cost of batteries has also fallen.

"Roughly speaking we’ve seen storage costs come down by as much as 50 percent the past four or five years," says Ravi Menghani, an analyst at GTM Research, who studies energy storage.

GTM Research estimates prices will fall another 40 percent over the next five years. State lawmakers have also required utilities to build more storage into their systems.

The research firm expects those factors will help spur California's relatively small energy storage capacity to grow exponentially by the end of the decade.

The state is currently home to 67 megawatts of energy storage—about one-third the size of a small coal plant. GTM predicts California will deploy 2,400 megawatts of storage in the next five years—40 percent of all storage capacity in the U.S.

Ben Bradford

State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covers California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio