Historic California Gas Leak Spurs Boom in Big Batteries

Installations of large-scale energy-storage systems surged to record levels during the first quarter as power companies and state officials pushed to better incorporate electricity from wind and solar farms.

U.S. homes and businesses — mostly utilities — installed storage systems with 234 megawatt-hours of capacity during January, February and March — more than 50 times the amount installed a year earlier, according to a study released Tuesday by GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association.

The lion share of installations were in Arizona, Hawaii and California. A key driver in the Golden State was the continued closure of the Aliso Canyon gas field — site of the biggest leak in U.S. history — which prompted Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Edison International’s Southern California Edison to installed powerful batteries to make up for anticipated electricity shortfalls. Despite the robust start, storage installations appear to have already their high-water mark for the year, Ravi Manghani, GTM Research’s director of energy storage, said in a statement.

“The industry shouldn’t get too comfortable,” Manghani said. “There aren’t that many 10+ megawatt-hour projects in the 2017 pipeline, indicating that the first quarter may be the largest quarter this year.”

Leading States

California, which has a goal to install 1.3 gigawatts worth of batteries by 2020, remains the national leader in energy storage, with 238 megawatts installed. It’s followed by Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.

Nearly all the systems installed in the last year used lithium ion batteries, according to GTM. The study didn’t include pumped-storage hydroelectricity systems, which draw water to hilltop reservoirs and then release it later to power electric generators.

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