SAN DIEGO—The precipitous drop in cost that helped lead to broad adoption of utility-scale renewables over the past decade appears ready to have a similar impact on the use of battery storage in the near future.

"We've seen big cost reductions in solar, and we're seeing the same sorts of cost reductions in battery storage," said Brad Seibert, vice president of business development of NRTC, a Herndon, Virginia-based technology cooperative.

Seibert told attendees at this year's Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives NET Conference that favorable economics are helping utilities see battery storage as an increasingly viable technology, and electric cooperatives are among the early adopters.

"We just concluded a 16-megawatt-hour project [with United Power] in Colorado, and Connexus Energy [in Minnesota] just did a 30-MWh project with NextEra Energy," said Seibert.

The National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp (CFC) sees the storage trend extending beyond the utility industry and into the manufacturing and residential sectors.

"The costs of batteries have declined at a faster rate than solar," said Peter Muhoro, CFC's vice president for industry research and analysis. "Batteries will make a big difference in our economy.

"There is not a single meeting or conference I attend where the subject of battery storage does not come up."

Improvements in battery safety and the experiences of early adopters are also contributing factors in the acceptance of storage, said Brett Cullen, director of business development for ENGIE Storage Inc., a Southern California-based energy storage developer. He also told the NET audience that deployments of flywheels and compressed-air storage are also under way.

Anza Electric Cooperative is adding an 18-MWh battery storage system as a more affordable way to reduce susceptibility to outages from its lone transmission link.

"A secondary transmission line is very simply too expensive," said Kevin Short, general manager of the 5,000-meter Anza, California-based distribution co-op. "At 16 miles long, hooking into a point of the Southern California Edison transmission system would cost about 1.5 times the total value of our entire system."

Short told the gathering that the battery system will also help the co-op manage peak evening.

Panelists noted that disposal of depleted batteries will be a key issue for utilities as storage becomes more widespread.

Read More NET Conference Coverage:

Co-ops Are Preparing for More Consumers, Businesses to Embrace Electric Vehicles

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