Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

New York/San Francisco — Natural gas is getting edged out of power markets across the US by two energy sources that, together, are proving to be an unbeatable mix: solar and batteries.

In just the latest example, First Solar won a power contract to supply Arizona’s biggest utility when electricity demand on its system typically peaks, between 3pm and 8pm. The panel maker beat out bids from even power plants burning cheap gas by proposing to build a 65-megawatt solar farm that will, in turn, feed a 50-megawatt battery system.

It’s a powerful combination for meeting peak demand because of when the sun shines. Here is how it will work: the panels will generate solar power when the sun’s out to charge the batteries. The utility will draw on those batteries as the sun starts to set and demand starts to rise.

Just last week, NextEra Energy’s Florida utility similarly installed a battery system that’ll back up a solar farm and boost generation. In California, regulators have called on the Pacific Gas and Electric Company to use batteries or other nonfossil fuel resources instead of supplies from gas-fired plants to meet peak demand. Federal regulators plan to take up a proposed rule on Thursday that could remove barriers to energy storage participating more in wholesale power markets.

Arizona Public Service spokesperson Annie DeGraw said the bid the utility received from First Solar was "very competitive, and it had the added benefit of being clean".


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