New research suggests that solar power and battery energy storage are now competitive with natural gas peaker plants due to falling costs. The research focuses on specific markets in the USA, but forecasts that 10 GW of natural gas peaker plants could be taken offline by 2027. Other, more aggressive predictions say 2020 could be the year.
Energy dense, fast discharging lithium-ion batteries are a natural fit for the peaker plant niche. California has been the key battleground state, with the headline grabbing emergency response projects that replaced some of the Aliso Canyon natural gas peaker plant. There are currently discussions underway to replace three additional natural gas plants with battery energy storage — two gas peakers and one gas power.
While 2020 being the year the gas peaker kicks the bucket could seem absurdly optimistic, it’s worth remembering that when Jim Robo ( CEO of NextEra) made this prediction back in 2015 the cost of energy storage was more than double what it is today.
A solar power plus battery energy storage plant is cheaper than a gas peaker plant even today, suggests a new report from Minnesota, and even without including the cheap renewable electricity provided by solar, the cost is close to competitive.
The future landscape has not taken the energy sector by surprise. GE recently laid off 12,000 of their power generation department staff, claiming that the world is turning towards renewable energy and that they too need to evolve. German energy company Siemens has expressed similar sentiments.
For now, the energy storage-gas peaker competition is only really heating up in the USA, with Australia next in line. In Europe and the rest of the world, natural gas remains king and strong pushback from the sector is expected. This new research shows that it’s now a matter of when, not if — and who will be best placed to take advantage of these new opportunities?
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