Why energy storage? Hotter weather, heavier rains, rising seas—birds are in crisis, even the goldfinches and nuthatches at your backyard feeder. Responsibly sited clean energy is critical to protecting the birds we love. But expanding renewables requires figuring out ways to store intermittent sources of power like wind and solar.
Energy storage solves this issue by allowing utilities to store power and use it later. An example is battery storage systems attached to solar farms. These batteries store excess solar power when the sun is shining so that the energy can be used to power the electric grid later, after dark or on cloudy days.
Energy storage increases reliability and lowers costs. Our grid is currently setup so that we have to use power as soon as it’s generated, but demand for power fluctuates throughout the day.
To address this issue, utilities have depended on fossil fuel-powered plants to provide energy during peak times of demand (thus the term “peaker plant”). But by increasing our energy storage capacity, we are able to forgo this inefficient and costly power during peak times and instead use wind and solar energy more often, even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. This makes the grid more reliable and lowers costs for consumers.
Energy storage is growing. Energy storage costs have dropped precipitously in recent years. The same batteries that power our smart phones and electric cars are also being incorporated into energy storage systems for power grids. Experts expect costs for these powerful batteries to drop as much as 70 percent by 2025. As demand has increased, so has the amount of investment and innovation, potentially clearing the way for new storage technologies that can make our power system cleaner and more efficient.
Utilities across the country are catching on, making their grids more reliable by installing energy storage facilities. The state of Texas, a leader in clean energy, plans to triple its energy storage capacity this year to 360 megawatts and anticipates even faster growth in coming years.
In North Carolina, we are lagging behind our peers. Despite being a leader in solar power, we currently have just 1 megawatt of battery storage capacity. Changing this equation is key to expanding clean energy in North Carolina and ensuring a brighter future for birds and people.