Local Energy Storage Is a Clever Infrastructure Innovation

Solar panels in Hancock, Massachusetts

Solar panels in Hancock, Massachusetts Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Projects are already appearing in Massachusetts independent of the state’s grant program.

Massachusetts is trying to kickstart a homegrown energy storage industry right now, capitalizing on the state’s ongoing investments in solar and wind power. Earlier this year, the Department of Energy Resources began spending $20 million to cover up to half the costs for 26 projects, ranging from a Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority backup battery for a new fleet of e-buses to a much larger solar-plus-storage facility in the Acton-Boxborough school district.

The Advancing Commonwealth Energy Storage initiative, or ACES, comes as the Bay State looks ahead to the retirement of the Pilgrim nuclear station next year, and, as energy demand remains firm on the back of a robust, regional economy. Participation in the program has been strong. “We were originally going to design it as a $10 million program but doubled that to $20 million,” says Judith Judson, DOER commissioner. “And yes, we are definitely looking at storage to deal with retirements, but also, as a way to handle the rise of intermittent power.”

Energy storage is a leading edge technology that's just now beginning to gain traction. More than just a simple box, however, storage is increasingly paired with software to create an “intelligent layer” across various grid interactions. EV charging companies are starting to allow limited interoperability between the grid and EV batteries, while large utilities are experimenting with storage as a way to smooth out spikes and drops, some which last only seconds. Overall, storage is shaping up to be a money saver, and a smart third-party player wherever electricity flows.

Among a handful of eastern states that are rapidly adopting adopting wind and solar, Massachusetts is now the sixth-largest producer of solar power in the country, just behind Texas and Nevada. Data from the Energy Information Administration additionally shows that combined solar and wind so far, in 2018, are already providing over 7 percent of the state’s demand for electricity. Massachusetts is primarily a rising star in solar power, but will soon embrace wind power too, as a collection of eastern states, from Delaware and Maryland to New York and Rhode Island, get into the offshore wind power game.

This fall, Massachusetts took a great leap forward in this regard, signing a deal for the massive offshore 800 MW Vineyard Wind project, which begins construction next year. As intermittent resources grow, the need will increase to store daytime solar for evening use, and nighttime wind for the following day.

Wind turbines in Fairhaven, Massachusetts (Shutterstock)

While Rhode Island was the first state in the country to build an offshore facility, Block Island Wind, at 30 MW of capacity, the state of Massachusetts passed legislation this summer for 10 times that amount, doubling its own mandate to 3200 MW of offshore wind by 2035. That pipeline, combined with other state mandates, will provide both the demand, but also the needed visibility, to a nascent energy-storage industry.

But time-shifting of surplus wind and solar is not the only solution that storage can undertake. Ben Serrurier, policy manager for western states at Cypress Creek Renewables, a solar developer based in San Francisco, told Route Fifty that “the number one benefit we see to energy storage, for cooperatives and public owned utilities in particular, is investment deferral.”

In other words, energy storage, at the margin, can be a way to delay building new power plants, or avoid new sub-stations in highly dense areas, where public push-back against new large infrastructure can be strong. “Let’s say in the years ahead you have adoption of electric buses in a city like Seattle, with a concurrent increase in demand,” Serrurier says. “Well, there are a couple of ways to address this, like new transmission, or, you could simply tack on batteries.”

Serrurier points out “while more wires will surely have to be built” as the electricity system grows, avoiding unnecessary expenditures on transmission is an efficiency goal that aligns well with the public. Moreover, once installed, batteries act as a two-way intermediary, providing both supply, and demand.

Public opposition to new power generation, of any kind, has been strong in recent years and it’s been difficult both in Massachusetts and in New England more generally. A mega-project designed to bring clean hydropower from Canada, Northern Pass, was rejected earlier this year, mostly due to the need for large transmission wires.

Tightening supply further, a wave of coal retirements has also been seen in the region in addition to the imminent loss of Pilgrim Nuclear—which is still providing about 8 percent of Massachusetts’ electricity demand. Accordingly, the state has a peak-demand problem that drives up prices and creates strains on the system. And, interestingly, energy storage can play a third role, helping to dampen the price spikes during peak.

“The one statistic we talk about is that our top 1 percent of hours uses 8 percent of electricity spending, and the top 10 percent of hours accounts for 40 percent of electricity spending,” says commissioner Judson. “In addition,” she says, “at peak, the bid stack gets dirty.”

Judson further explained that the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker, understanding that dirtier resources come into the system during peak, adopted a new Clean Peak Standard in the same energy bill that raised windpower goals, this summer.

Storage projects are already appearing in Massachusetts independent of the state’s grant program. Hampshire College, partnering with Solar City, a division of Tesla, has now put into operation a very large 4.7 MW solar array across a 19 acre piece of land on the south side of its campus in Amherst. Paired with a fixed-site battery, the combined system allows the college to both generate and transmit electricity back to the grid, or take power from the grid, depending on usage patterns.

According to published reports, the college as a result has secured for itself power rates that are far below market prices. But more important still is that investments like these impact not just a single institutional user, but the system itself. Storage increasingly looks to play several roles, though as Serrurier points out, not necessarily many roles all at once.

“While battery storage can provided everything from time-shifting to frequency regulation, it’s not likely to do both,” he said. “The behavior of the battery is going to really align with its purpose. So it’s best to think about how a particular project may be focused.”

This all said, the Baker administration in Massachusetts may have hit upon a clever, near-term solution in energy storage, one that navigates through the tight interplay of rising renewable generation and a public that is averse to new wires and typically massive power projects. “With storage,” says Judson, “we can definitely reduce our spending on energy infrastructure. Storage is a game changer.”

Gregor Macdonald is a journalist who regularly covers cities, climate and energy. He is based in Portland, Oregon.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Improved Water Quality and More Field Time Due to a 97% Reduction in Office Admin Work
Marin County, CA, USA
Integrated city systems, unified data, & automation drive 316% increase in field efficiency
Seattle, WA, USA
Orlando Protects Citizens During Heavy Rain Events by Optimizing Water Data Intelligence
Orlando, FL, USA

NEXT STORY: A Long-Term Solution for Scooter Sharing

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.