Grid-Scale Batteries Make Sense for Solar Energy, But Not Wind, Study Says


When renewable energy sources such as solar and wind farms generate more electricity than consumers need, storing the excess doesn’t always make sense, say researchers from Stanford University.

Large, grid-scale batteries capable of storing the extra electricity are resource-intensive and costly to manufacture and maintain — sometimes more so than the energy they’re used to store.

“You wouldn’t spend a $100 on a safe to store a $10 watch,” said Michael Dale, who co-authored the study in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. “Likewise, it’s not sensible to build energetically expensive batteries for an energetically cheap resource like wind.”

Economically, it makes more sense to shut down wind energy production when consumer demand is low than it does to maintain battery systems to store excess wind energy, the study said. But battery storage does make sense for photovoltaic systems, the researchers say, because solar panels and solar farms require more energy to build and maintain.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.


  1. Maybe the author has generalized a bit too broadly. Or is he making a statement against GE’s “brilliant” wind turbines?

  2. After reading the abstract it seems, I could be wrong, that only one metric of a system with many metrics is being observed. That is the Energy Returned On energy Invested or EROI is the only metric. (Why isn’t the metric called EROEI?) This metric does not take into account economics. And so a title stating it makes no sense to use batteries for wind is very provocative because it lacks the proper qualifications. Namely in the manner it makes no sense.

    “You wouldn’t spend a $100 on a safe to store a $10 watch”! What nonsense is this? Once again the author assumes scenarios which are usually not the case. You go to the gym and you store your keys in a safe that costs much more than $100. You put your valuables in a safe deposit box that is worth much more than you could ever afford. And yes you would buy a $100 safe to store your $10 watch if your watches kept getting vandalized.

  3. This report assumes that the battery energy storage is part of the wind farm or solar installation.

    If that is the case it may be correct in what it states.

    However if the energy storage is a separate facility on the grid the electricity stored can come from many sources at different times.

    The dispatchable power of the energy storage has value when it is required it also has value in the ability to regulate oversupply.

    The cost of the energy storage should be weighed against the cost of maintaining spinning reserves and the cost and operation of peaker plants.

    What a grid connected energy storage system is doing in reality is storing energy from a fuel consuming source rather than that fuel being wasted.

  4. I think the author is missing an important point: batteries attached to wind farms can smooth output and that “caching” function could increase the availability and predictability of wind power during the day. Hitachi and others have done some work demonstrating this and it makes a boat load of sense from a grid perspective or system operator perspective. The author assumes (ass, u, me) incorrectly IMO, that you would size the the batteries to provide bulk storage of off peak power produced. That assumption is not logical, so at some level what I’m reading is “here is a stupid design that does not make sense” – OK, thanks, got it. Even in the case of PV, the storage should be sized to allow the solar peak (9am-3pm) to be shifted to more closely match the system peak (11am – 6pm). Honestly, we should probably be providing incentives to pure West-facing PV arrays on this basis rather than discriminating against them by paying only on net kWh regardless of time of production. That would be a good study to do if you’ve got funding to do studies!

    I don’t sell wind or batteries but I know about this and the author does not? Makes me wonder about the value of this report given that its view of value is so narrow, as “ioconnor” points out.