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The Energy Industry Invests in Storage Battery Technologies with an Eye on Distributed Power and Renewables, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

The development of large-scale storage systems (often in the form of giant batteries) scattered around electric transmission grids would mean that generating companies could create excess power during periods of slow demand, store that electricity and then sell it through the grid a few hours later when demand picks up.  It would also mean that spikes in demand, such as that caused by a massive number of air conditioners turned on during an extremely hot summer afternoon, could be served quickly by drawing on stored power.  Former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu believes that America must eventually increase storage of all types to provide 10,000 gigawatts of backup electricity, compared to the 25 gigawatts stored today.
Rapid growth in the number of large battery storage systems is occurring.  This trend was boosted when Tesla, a leader in electric vehicles, solar cells and lithium battery manufacturing, installed, in mid-2017, a massive 100 MW lithium-ion battery system in South Australia, in conjunction with the local government and French energy firm Neoen.  This installation, called the Hornsdale Power Reserve, was the largest of its kind at the time.
California utility PG&E was granted approval by the California Public Utilities Commission to replace three gas plants with two major battery storage projects.  One is a project from Vistra Corp. ( which came online in early 2021.  Called the Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility, its capacity was increased in a second phase completed in August 2021, bringing the facility's total capacity to 400 megawatts/1,600 megawatt-hours.  A third expansion phase was completed in August 2023, which added another 350 MW/1,400 MWh in capacity.  Moss Landing’s total capacity is now 50 MW/3,000 MWh.  The other project, Elkhorn Battery, was completed in April 2022.  It is a 182.5 MW/730 MWh Tesla Megapack battery energy storage system (BESS).  According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), America’s battery storage capacity in the U.S. will soar from only 9 gigawatts either planned or operating in 2021 to 30 gigawatts by 2030.

SPOTLIGHT:  Form Energy, Inc.
Startup Form Energy ( launched a rechargeable iron-air battery in 2021 capable of delivering electricity for 100 hours at system costs competitive with conventional power plants, and at less than 1/10th the cost of commonly used lithium-ion batteries.  Made from iron, this new, front-of-the-meter battery can be used continuously over a multi-day period, at costs of less than $6 per kilowatt-hour of storage.

     Battery systems such as these not only add reliability to an electric grid, they also may lower costs and improve efficiency.  If advanced batteries are eventually developed that capture significant volumes of solar- and wind-generated electricity for later use, the benefits would be immense.  A major battery research effort is underway by multiple companies and government agencies worldwide.
Stem, Inc. ( is a northern California-based provider of batteries and software to corporate customers.  The firm’s Athena by Stem is an artificial intelligence (AI) system that collects and analyzes energy storage data at a rate of 400 megabytes (MB) per minute.  During hours of peak energy demand, Athena uses the data to shift use away from traditional electricity sources to the draw-down of energy stored in batteries, reducing costs for Stem customers, which include Adobe Systems and Whole Foods Market.

SPOTLIGHT:  QuantumScape Corporation
QuantumScape Corporation ( is developing next-generation battery technology for electric vehicles (EVs) and other applications.  The firm (which is 20% owned by the Volkswagen Group) has been developing a proprietary lithium-metal solid-state battery technology to offer greater energy density, longer life, faster charging and greater safety when compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries  During 2021, QuantumScape announced that it agreed with Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. to select the location of their joint venture solid-state battery pilot-line facility, possibly in Germany.  The facility, QS-1, will initially be a 1-gigawatt hour (GWh) battery cell commercial production plant for EV batteries.  QuantumScape and Volkswagen intend to expand production capacity by a further 20 GWh at the same location.

     Super-capacity storage technologies include flywheels, pumped hydro storage and compressed air energy storage.  For additional thoughts along these lines, visit the American Clean Power Association at
Today, part of the grid-scale electricity storage that exists is in the form of pumped hydro systems.  In this technology, water is pumped uphill, during hours of low electricity demand, to a large holding tank or retention pond.  Later, when increased electricity is demanded, the water is released to turn a turbine-powered generator.  On the negative side, pumped hydro access is limited to areas with appropriate topography and water supplies.  Salt, stored either in the ground or in a specially constructed tower, is widely considered to be an ideal substance for energy storage, since it absorbs and releases heat in a predictable and stable manner.  Abengoa, one of the world's largest utility-scale solar power developers, began operation of the Solana project about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona in 2013.  This 280-megawatt concentrated solar power (CSP) plant includes one of the world's most advanced molten salt energy storage installations.  It has proven capable of generating power for six hours after the sun goes down, utilizing heat stored in molten salt during the day in order to power the plant's turbines during the evening.  These six hours help to satisfy peak demand during summer evenings and early night-time hours.  The $1.45 billion plant, generating power equivalent to that needed to maintain 70,000 homes, was funded under a loan guarantee provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.  Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure acquired the Solana plant from Abengoa in 2019.  While salt storage technology has been successful, such solar tower projects have suffered many problems.
Solar energy is being stored in what many believe is one of the world’s largest batteries, located in Manatee County, Florida on the Gulf Coast, which opened in late 2021.  Florida Power & Light (a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, Inc.) built it, and it provides 409 megawatts of electricity for two hours during peak demand periods, enough to power approximately 329,000 Florida homes.  The company also operates a 74.5-megawatt solar farm in the area.  The new battery is part of a slow movement away from natural gas-powered “peaker plants” that operate during peak demand periods and toward battery arrays, made possible by the drop in lithium-ion battery costs.  Underwater storage is the focus of startup StEnSea (Storing Energy at Sea).  Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology in Kassel, Germany, the technology stores water in 12 cubic-meter vessels placed on the bottom of Lake Constance.  The depth of the lake’s floor is about 100 meters, which is subject to significant atmospheric pressure exerted by the water.  (That is, the pressure on the lake’s floor is about 9 times that on the lake’s surface.)  The rigid concrete vessels are repeatedly filled and drained from the surrounding lake which turns connected turbines.  As pressure builds, up to 3 kilowatt hours of energy are stored in each vessel.  Cables carry generated power to land.  The project is a pilot, and should it prove viable, the company plans to build in the Norwegian trench at a depth of 600 meters, possibly storing 20 megawatts per vessel.

SPOTLIGHT:  Hydrogen as an Energy Storage Strategy (“Power-to-Gas”) 
While advanced batteries are seen by many firms to be the answer to energy storage, a handful see the production of easily stored hydrogen as an alternative answer.  A firm called Hydrogenics developed technology that can use excess wind and solar to power equipment that generates hydrogen.  (This is referred to as “Green Hydrogen,” since it is produced using renewable energy.)  That hydrogen can then be stored or transported for later use, including hydrogen filling stations for fuel-cell powered vehicles.  Hydrogenics was acquired by Cummins, Inc. for $290 million in late 2019.
Tesla Batteries Power Homes and Offices in Addition to Electric Cars
Electric automobile maker Tesla Motors has adapted its expertise to create innovative electric storage batteries for residential and commercial/utility use.  On the residential side, Tesla’s Powerwall is big enough to provide temporary power to a home or small building at modest cost.  Powerwall can readily store excess solar energy for use at night or when clouds obscure the sun.  The system also provides power when traditional electric grids suffer outages.
On the commercial side, Tesla’s Powerpack is a fully integrated energy storage system that connects large scale customers to a building or utility network that enables users to avoid peak power demand charges.  It offers peak shaving, load shifting, emergency backup and demand response capabilities through a device housing 16 individual battery pods, a thermal control system and hundreds of sensors that monitor and report on power performance.  
Tesla also offers a number of distributed energy products for the utilities market.  In addition, a Tesla subsidiary offers solar panels and Solar Roof tiles. 
In 2019, Tesla unveiled Megapack, a new large-scale battery technology for major utility-scale storage systems.  As of November 2022, Tesla had a backlog of 42 Megapacks per week at its Gigafactory Nevada.  In late 2022, Tesla delivered a 196-megawatt battery system for the Pillswood Project near Hull in the UK which was the largest battery system in Europe at the time.  It is capable of backing up power to approximately 300,000 homes in the UK for two hours.

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