Storms Spur $22 Billion Investment in Battery-Backed Grids

Growing demand for more resilient power supplies will spur $22.3 billion of global investment in battery-backed local energy systems over the next decade, according to Navigant Research.

Villages and homes in far-flung places will drive the expansion of microgrids, small-scale solar systems with batteries that can retain power until it’s needed. Navigant expects 14.9 gigawatts to be in operation in 2026, up from 238 megawatts this year, according to a report Tuesday.

North America and the Asia-Pacific region will get about three-quarters of the investment as developers find ways to use microgrids more efficiently, including providing energy-management services to utilities. North America will have 5.85 gigawatts of microgrid storage in operation by 2026 and Asia-Pacific will have 5.57 gigawatts. Declining battery costs and new financing methods will also boost deployment in areas like coastal communities in Florida and Texas exposed to flooding and frequent storms, said researcher Alex Eller.

“The storms helped raise awareness of what’s available,” Eller said in an interview. “For the next couple years, remote microgrids will make up about half of global installations.”

Puerto Rico, where the utility grid was knocked out by Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20, has become a target for developers eager to showcase microgrid designs. These include solar panels, small wind turbines and backup diesel or propane generators that may be needed if a string of cloudy days reduces solar production and doesn’t fully charge the batteries.

Suppliers including Tesla Inc., battery-maker Sonnen GmbH, and solar rooftop supplier Sunnova Energy Corp. have each begun shipping micro-grid equipment to Puerto Rico to help re-power the island following the storm.

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