Are Grid Batteries A Better Investment Than Natural Gas?

When you think of renewable energy, Minnesota isn’t typically a headline-grabber: last year, it got slightly less than 20 percent of its energy from wind, good enough to rank in the top 10 nations. However, it’s only 28th in terms of installed solar power, and its relatively compact size means jobs within its boundaries rarely garner the attention that giants like California and Texas routinely get.

A fresh study on the future of energy from the state should turn some heads. According to the U. of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Laboratory, starting in 2019 and for the foreseeable future, the overall cost of constructing grid-scale storage there’ll be less than that of construction natural-gas plants to satisfy future energy demand.

Minnesota now gets about 21 percent of its electricity from renewables. That’s not bad, but current plans also call for bringing an additional 1,800 megawatts of gas-fired “peaker” plants online by 2028 to fulfill growing demand. As the moniker implies these plants are meant to spin up fast to fulfill daily peaks in energy demand–something renewables tend to be poor at since the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine.

Maintaining energy from renewables could solve that problem, but it’s traditionally been considered as too pricey compared with other kinds of energy.