FERC Energy Infrastructure Report and the Battery Boom – 5/12/16

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, renewable energy sources now account for 18.11% of total available installed generating capacity in the U.S. Broken down by source: hydro is the largest, 8.58%; followed by wind, 6.39%; biomass, 1.43%; solar, 1.38%; and geothermal, 0.33%.  The only sources with substantial (>100MW) new capacity for the first three months of the year were wind and solar, which is surprising given earlier forecasts by the EIA had natural gas additions estimated as much higher.

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Non-hydro renewable energy now exceeds conventional hydropower in capacity, as well as nuclear power (9.17%). Total available installed generating capacity made up by renewables in the U.S. grew to the 18.11% from 13.71% in a 2010 FERC report. Large additions scheduled for the next year are expected to bring that 18.11% above 20%.

In battery storage news, movement of Tesla Powerwall models aimed at residential customers is set to start ramping up. Falling costs of solar panels and batteries combined with net metering phase outs in some states are making battery storage more attractive. Tesla’s Gigafactory has managed to shatter expectations for battery costs through economies of scale; it has already produced thousands of Powerwalls at prices that analysts thought would take several more years to reach.

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Though Tesla’s market for residential batteries is strongest in Hawaii where electricity prices are high and solar panels are ubiquitous, the company expects its home battery branch to make billions selling to rural customers currently relying on diesel generators.

Some utilities are working with Tesla directly and all are doing their own part to test battery storage as part of the power grid. Many of the initial installations of Powerwalls were through utility programs meant to test energy storage as an option for peaker replacement and alternative to load shedding. Many managers hope that the addition of flexible energy storage will costs associated with inconsistent energy flows from renewables and more conventional problems associated with aging power grid infrastructure.

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