Natural gas peaker plants step in when electricity demand is high, but their days could be numbered. Solar energy and battery storage prices have plummeted enough to make them competitive with some of those plants – and they could soon take over 10 gigawatts (GW) in the United States. GTM Research senior adviser Shayle Kann said at Greentech Media’s Energy Storage Summit, “I can’t see a reason why we should ever build a gas peaker again in the U.S. after, say, 2025.”
Batteries plus solar energy could topple natural gas peaker plants. Kann said 10GW of the 20GW of the plants projected to be constructed between 2018 and 2017 could be taken over by energy storage. More aggressive estimates suggest the gas peaker plants may not even have a place after 2020. And earlier this year, the University of Minnesota said solar and energy storage were already more cost effective than the plants in their state.
Kann said, “Time and time again in adjacent sectors like solar, and even in energy storage, technology costs have the capacity to fall faster than almost anybody expects.” And it’s surprising regulators – for example, the California Energy Commission decided to reconsider a gas peaker plant planned for Oxnard, California. The California Independent System Operator discovered this plant actually would be more expensive than storage, according to Greentech Media.
Electrek pointed to Tesla’s recent Australia project as a real world example of the dawning age of the renewable power and energy storage plant. The Powerpack system is connected to a wind farm, and began delivering power a day early to help meet peak demand. Or there’s Tesla’s 80 megawatt-hour California plant, built after regulators told Southern California Edison to invest in battery storage in the wake of the Aliso Canyon natural gas well leak.
But according to Electrek, Tesla’s Australia plant isn’t a repeatable economic experiment – not until changes are made in the legal structure of selling electricity. And outside of peaker plants in the United States, tens of thousands of megawatts of natural gas capacity are still expected be installed by 2020.
Images via Tesla