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The explosive growth of solar + battery hybrids is on the horizon

The explosive growth of solar + battery hybrids is on the horizon

Solar + battery hybrids are poised for explosive growth

America’s electric power system is undergoing radical change as it transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy. While the first decade of the 2000s saw huge growth in natural gas generation, and the 2010s were the decade of wind and solar, early signs suggest the innovation of the 2020s may be a boom in “hybrid” power plants.

A hybrid power plant is one that combines both electricity generation and battery storage at the same place. This can be a combination of large-scale batteries and a wind farm or solar array. Solar panels and battery storage work together to generate renewable power when the sun is at its peak, and then release it as required after the sun sets.

A look at the power and storage projects in the development pipeline offers a glimpse of hybrid power’s future.

Our teamLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that there was a staggering increase in the number of people who use their laboratory for research. 1,400 gigawatts of proposed generation and storage projects have applied to connect to the grid – more than all existing U.S. power plants combined. Most of these projects are solar, with more than a third of them hybrid solar and storage plants.

These power plants of the future have many benefits, but they also offer many disadvantages. raise questionsAbout how to best operate the electric grid

Hybrids are hot!

As wind and sun grow, they are beginning to have major impacts on the grid.

Already using solar power Exceeds 25%California has the highest annual power generation and it is expanding rapidly in other states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia. The “wind belt” states, from the Dakotas to Texas, have seen Massive deployment of wind turbinesIowa now gets the majority of its power from wind.

This high percentage of renewable energy raises the question: How can we integrate renewable sources that produce large, but varying amounts of power throughout a day?

Joshua Rhodes/University of Texas at Austin

That’s where storage comes in. Prices for lithium-ion batteries have fallen Rapidly fallingIn recent years, production has increased for electric vehicles. Although there are concerns about the future, Supply chain challengesBattery design is also likely evolve.

The combination of solar power and batteries allows hybrid plant operators the ability to provide power for the most important hours when demand is highest, such summer afternoons or evenings when air conditioners run on high. Batteries can also be used to reduce grid congestion, smooth out wind and solar power production, store excess power and prevent it from being cut off.

The majority of projects are hybrids

At the end of 2020 there were 73 and 16 wind-hybrid projects operating in the U.S. These projects generated 2.5 gigawatts and stored 0.45 gigawatts.

Today, hybrids and solar are the dominant technologies in the development pipeline. More than a billion people will be using solar and hybrid technology by 2021. 675 gigawatts of solar power are proposedOver a third of plants had applied to grid connection approval. Another 247 gigawatts of wind farm were in line. 19 gigawatts, which is about 8%, were hybrids.

Bar chart showing overwhelming increase in solar since 2014 compared to other sources and fast rise in batteries in the past two years.
In recent years, the amount of solar, storage, and wind power that is being developed has increased dramatically, while coal, nuclear, and gas have all declined.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

However, applying for a connection to a power plant is only one step. Developers also need land, community agreements, a sales agreement, financing, permits, and financing. Only one in four of the new plants that were proposed between 2010 – 2016 went into commercial operation. However, hybrid plants are attracting a lot of attention.

For new solar developers in California, batteries are almost a requirement. Solar often accounts for around 80% of the energy consumed by solar. Majority of powerBuilding more is not worth the effort in the daytime market. Currently, 95% of the large-scale solar capacity proposed in California comes with batteries.

5 lessons from hybrids and questions to the future

Although the potential for growth in renewable hybrids is evident, there are some questions. Our groupBerkeley Lab has been investigating.

Here are some of our favorites Top findings:

  • In many areas, the investment pays off.While adding batteries to solar power plants increases their price, it also increases their value. The benefits of combining generation and storage can be realized through tax credits, construction cost savings, and operational flexibility. The added value seems to justify the higher price when you consider the revenue potential in recent years and the federal tax credits.

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  • Tradeoffs are also a part of co-location.Wind and solar are most effective where there is strong wind and solar energy. However, batteries offer the greatest value in areas where they can provide grid benefits like congestion relief. There are trade-offs in determining the best location for the highest value. Federal tax credits that are only available when solar and batteries are co-located may encourage suboptimal decisions.

Rows of solar panels and two batteries the size of small shipping containers sit in a field.
As solar power is saturating the grid, hybrid power has become a standard in Hawaii.
Dennis Schroeder/NREL
  • There is no best combination.The configuration of the equipment can play a part in determining the value of a hybrid plant. The size of the battery relative with a solar generator can affect how late the plant can provide power. However, nighttime power’s value is dependent on the local market conditions which can change throughout the year.

  • It is necessary to adapt the power market rules.Hybrids may participate in the power markets as a single unit, or as separate entities. The storage and solar bidding can be done independently. Hybrids may also be buyers or sellers of power or both. This can be complicated. Hybrid market participation rules remain in flux. This leaves plant operators free to experiment with the ways they sell their services.

  • Small hybrids offer new opportunitiesHybrid power plants are also small, such as solar panels and batteries in a house or business. These are just a few examples. In Hawaii, hybrids are a standard featuresolar power is able to completely supplant the grid. Customers in California who are subject to power cuts to prevent wildfires are adding storage to the solar systems. These “behind-the-meter” hybridsSeveral questions remain about their value and their contribution to grid operations.

Hybrids are only the beginning. But there are many more. To ensure that the grid’s pricing and pricing evolve with them, more research is needed on the technologies and market designs.

While questions remain, it’s clear that hybrids are redefining power plants. They may also remake the U.S. energy system.

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