More U.S. states embracing batteries to store renewable power

Energy-storage systems are spreading across the U.S. as states encourage deployments to help integrate an increasing amount of solar and wind power into electric grids.

There are now 21 states with at least 20 megawatts each of storage projects in service, under construction or proposed, according to a report Tuesday from GTM Research. Ten of those states have development pipelines exceeding 100 megawatts.

Rapidly falling battery prices along with increasing support from regulators has spurred the growth. There are 140 policies and regulations pending nationwide for utility-scale energy storage systems, according to GTM Research. Oregon, Massachusetts and New York City have followed in the footsteps of California by mandating deployments of batteries, and Utah’s legislature last year passed a bill that lets utilities invest in storage projects.

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“The plummeting costs of actual battery systems is opening up a lot of opportunities to take a hard look at the technology,” Daniel Finn-Foley, an analyst at GTM, said in an interview. “We see a lot of interest from utilities looking to deploy pilot projects.”

Median battery-system prices have dropped by 10 percent for short-term applications in the past year, and by as much as 14 percent for longer-duration systems, according to GTM. The research firm sees more than 1 gigawatt of utility-scale storage in service in 2018.

Grid operators and utilities are increasingly looking at energy storage as a way to help manage the intermittent output of wind and solar farms. Big batteries can house electricity that can be dispatched when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, making renewable energy more reliable.

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