You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Solar plus batteries aim to retire natural gas plants in 2019

Quartz logo Quartz 11/01/2019 Michael J. Coren
a person with a sunset in the background: The sun begins to rise behind a pump jack and natural gas flare, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, near Williston, N.D. © Provided by Atlantic Media, Inc. The sun begins to rise behind a pump jack and natural gas flare, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, near Williston, N.D.

For years, proponents of natural gas referred to it as a “bridge fuel,” an interim power source on the way to a distant future dominated by renewable energy. That far-off day seemed to pose little immediate threat. Not anymore.

Last year, representatives at the World Gas Conference started referring to natural gas as a “destination fuel” instead, even as one US state after another halted plans for natural gas plants.

Download the all-new Microsoft News app to receive up-to-the minute news from the world’s best sources – available now on iOS and Android

The nervousness stems from the plummeting prices of solar panels and battery storage. Natural gas plants are the historical go-to choice for “peaker plants,” which provide electricity during times of highest demand. While rarely used (just a few days per year on average), they’re critical to preventing blackouts.

a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by Atlantic Media, Inc.

Now, solar project developers are moving into that territory. Solar developers are bidding prices for new electricity capacity lower than natural gas plants even after adding batteries. In December, Credit Suisse confirmed that utility-scale solar-plus-storage was already cheaper than gas peaker plants.

After years in the doldrums, US energy-storage installations, mostly lithium-ion batteries, are taking off, having risen 57% to 338 MW in 2018 over the previous year, according to estimates by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. Globally, 6 gigawatt-hours have been installed worldwide.

Solar panels renewable energy sustainable resources Solar panels renewable energy sustainable resources

GE and Siemens have been trying to offload their natural gas turbine businesses as sales tumble. In May 2018, GE cut its sales forecast for its heavy-duty natural gas power plant business by more than half, saying demand would stay at the reduced level through 2020.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Quartz

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon