The photo is sourced from Arevon Asset Management
The introduction of energy storage systems in the United States has been driven by the development of renewable energy sources (RES). According to the EIA, the total capacity of geothermal plants, biomass units, and wind and solar generators connected to the public grid in the United States reached 241.1 GW by October 2023, exceeding the December 2019 figure (149.7 GW) by 61%. The share of these energy sources in the energy mix, which stood at 11% in 2019, rose to 15% in the first nine months of 2023 (excluding off-grid sources). This has led to growing demand for energy storage systems that can hedge energy supply risks in adverse weather conditions.
Among the indicators of this trend is the rising price of lithium, which is used in energy storage systems. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the average price of lithium carbonate in the United States went up from $11,700 per ton in 2019 to $37,000 per ton in 2022. Aside from RES development, another contributing factor to rising prices for lithium carbonate has been the increasing popularity of electric vehicles. According to the EIA, the total share of electric cars and hybrids in the sales of new passenger cars in the first three quarters of 2023 reached 16% in the United States, exceeding the figures recorded in 2021 and 2022 (9% and 12.5% respectively).
Energy storage systems based on the use of lithium-ion, zinc-bromine and other types of batteries are not the only way to increase RES efficiency. An alternative way is to integrate wind and solar generators with pumped storage power plants (PSPPs), which usually include two reservoirs with an elevation difference. The electricity generated at wind and solar units during the hours of low demand could be used to pump water from the lower reservoir to the upper one, from which the water is discharged during the hours of growing demand, setting off power generators.
The capacity of PSPPs in the United States was at nearly the same level in October 2023 as in December 2019 (23.2 GW versus 22.8 GW). However, PSPPs are the most popular type of hydroelectric power plants undergoing construction in the world at large. By May 2023, PSPPs accounted for 15% of the capacity of operating hydropower facilities around the world (166.1 GW out of 1,131 GW) and for 52% of the capacity of hydropower facilities under construction (101 GW out of 192.8 GW), Global Energy Monitor says.