The largest electric utility in Colorado, Xcel Energy, is making major investments in batteries to store the energy generated by nearby solar farms -- making the state a regional leader in deploying the rapidly advancing technology.
Batteries are basically the missing link in making renewables work as a main energy source.
Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said three new large-scale battery projects will store solar energy from solar farms to deploy during peak demand or when the sun isn’t shining.
“During that period, we may be able to shave up to about 5 percent of what our highest given demand in any one hour of a day,” Stutz said.
Five percent might sound small, but it’s still 275 megawatts, enough to power more than 300,000 homes.
“That is more than was added in all of the United States in 2017,” Stutz said, referring to the total size of the CO project.
Idaho comes in second to Colorado in renewable energy generation in the region. But Brad Bowlin with the state’s largest utility, Idaho power, says the price point for batteries isn’t quite there for a major investment -- yet.
“As the technologies improve and the costs have come down, those would become more viable alternatives,” he said of battery storage options.
Find reporter Dan Boyce on Twitter @BoyceDan .
Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.