For electrical contractors looking for the “next big thing,” a new report suggests that it might be residential battery storage projects.
The “2018 Utility Energy Storage Market Snapshot,” released by the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), surveyed 137 utilities nationwide, which represent almost 60 percent of U.S. customer accounts. It found that utilities deployed or connected a total of 217 megawatts (MW)/524 megawatt-hours (MWh) of new energy storage capacity to the grid in 2017, across a total of 2,588 systems. The total capacity of energy storage capacity is now 923 MW/1.29 GWh, across a total of 5,167 systems nationwide.
Of this, new utility-owned projects amount to 144 MW of the 217 total MW (representing a growth rate of 68 percent), and 355 MWh of the 523 total MWh (representing a growth rate of 89 percent).
From 2016 to 2017, non-residential battery storage capacity added 59 MW, a growth of a mere 9 percent over 2016. New projects totaled 140 MWh, a growth of 105 percent over 2016.
Residential is where the market is exploding. From 2016 to 2017, residential home battery storage capacity additions totaled 13 MW, an impressive increase of 202 percent over 2016. Capacity reached 29 MWh, a growth rate of an even more impressive 317 percent.
“Behind-the-meter battery storage customer offerings are of key interest to utilities, with 64 percent interested, planning, or actively implementing an offering,” states SEPA in its report.
Storage technologies and projects among all three groups (utilities, non-residential and residential) include aggregated behind-the-meter batteries, stand-alone deployment for ancillary services and load shifting, and non-wire alternatives (stand-alone power in remote areas where it is difficult for utilities to run lines).
One reason for the growth in all areas, but especially residential, is continuing declines in battery system prices, which the report states has been about 20 percent over the last three years.
"Lithium-ion battery storage is a grid asset like none that has ever existed,” said Nick Esch, senior research associate at SEPA. “Multiple utilities are testing the many capacities of these assets in demonstration projects and programs, including aggregated residential battery storage, fully dispatchable solar+storage, and microgrids. Naturally, the storage market is quite nascent. However, state policy action and regulatory action are creating opportunities in local energy storage markets.”