An increasing number of solar developers are now also developing storage projects, and several “pure-play” storage developers have launched. For a landowner, this offers an exciting new way to make money from your land. Here are some common questions and answers.
What is an Energy Storage Project?
An energy storage project — or more specifically, a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) — is one or more battery banks (or modules) that are connected to the electrical grid. These are also called grid-scale or utility-scale energy storage or battery storage systems.
Some installations use technologies other than batteries to store energy, but batteries are the most common technology.
How does a BESS work?
The operator of a BESS buys electricity from the grid when it is relatively inexpensive and stores it in (charges) the batteries. Then, when the cost of electricity is relatively high, or when power generation capacity is low due to inclement weather or other causes, the operator discharges the batteries, selling the stored energy at a profit.
For example, electricity tends to be less expensive at night, when temperatures are cooler and demand for electricity is lower. On a blazing hot Texas afternoon in the summer when everyone is running their air conditioner, electricity is in high demand and thus relatively expensive. All else equal, a BSS operator would charge the batteries after midnight and sell the electricity in the afternoon.
What makes a property good for a storage project?
As with a solar farm, the land a BESS project is built on must be relatively flat, not in a floodplain or have wetlands, and must be accessible from a road for construction and maintenance purposes. The critical difference is that a property for a BESS project must be within half a mile of a substation. A solar farm can generally be within a mile or two of a substation or a transmission line.
How Are BESS projects better than solar farms for landowners?
One advantage of a storage project on your land versus a solar farm is that it requires far less acreage. A typical battery storage module is about the same size as a shipping container. How many modules would be installed at any one site depends on several technical and economic factors, but in general, most storage projects require 20 or fewer acres, and small projects only require one or two acres. This means that even if you don’t have dozens or even hundreds of acres necessary for a solar farm, there’s still a possibility that a storage project could work on your property.
In addition, while solar farms are only located in rural areas, a storage project could be in an urban area (where parcels are smaller but large enough) and substations are more numerous. In fact, while strings of solar panels are almost always mounted into soil, battery modules could be placed on an existing foundation, such as an unused parking lot.
How do I know if my land qualifies for a BESS?
The most important issue is whether there is a substation on or near your property. If so, and if you have at least five acres of flat land that are not in a floodplain, your property might work. Fill out this form to tell us about your property and we’ll take a look!