Clean Tech Corner: the power of storage

Significant advances in technology and related policies provide a great opportunity for New Hampshire

As New England continues to move toward a greater use of renewable energy, we are concurrently witnessing growing interest and deployment of small to large-scale power storage systems. This growth brings up many questions concerning what technology options are available; what developments are occurring elsewhere; how New Hampshire should establish our policies; and what this does for regional power concerns. Let’s take a look and clarify some of these items.

Significant advancement in power storage technology and related policies has continued to develop over the last decade. This progress attempts to address the need to efficiently store energy to help with concerns regarding our electrical grid’s stability and availability during moments of peak demand. The question remains: What direction should we go in?

Arguably, the most common storage technologies are lead batteries, lithium-ion batteries (including electric vehicles), flywheels, compressed air, hydrogen, large hydropower storage and thermal storage. All have their benefits and drawbacks, but more importantly, there are many options available to provide a solution to any scenario.

An expected challenge, as with any technology, is the potential price point for the market. We have recently witnessed, however, several large-scale efforts to help lower the price point for certain forms of storage.

On the market side, we have seen major investment into an extremely large facility in the battery production sector, known as Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada. Tesla, with a roughly $5 billion investment in the factory, along with several states pushing aggressive policy measures, is attempting to lower equipment costs while demonstrating project capabilities and showcasing the grid of the future.

In addition, two California utilities are planning to bring 104.5 megawatts of energy storage capacity online by next year in an attempt to reach a stated goal of 1.3 gigawatts of storage capacity by 2020. These large efforts will have a transformational market impact that will extend across the country.

Closer to home, our neighbor to the west is taking significant steps to deploy battery storage for financial and stability reasons.

Vermont’s investor-owned Green Mountain Power is deploying lithium-ion battery storage to help shave peak demand changes for its business and residential customers. GMP is combining 2.5 MWs of solar with 4 MW of power storage to help reach this goal. In addition, GMP has decided to provide a battery storage leasing option for its customers for $15 a month, along with an alternative purchase option, to allow an entirely off grid option. There is no reason this concept cannot spread to New Hampshire.

As technologies improve, as more federal and state policies are created, and lower costs are witnessed, be prepared to see more deployment of both small and large-scale power storage. While many companies in New Hampshire currently offer battery storage options, this list will only grow for both residential and commercial use.

As with many clean-tech options, this will be an area of significant economic development and job growth for the Granite State. Storage deployment will help stabilize the regional and local grid infrastructure to help manufacturers, businesses and homeowners avoid wild utility rate spikes. It will further address many grid modification issues currently being considered at the NH Public Utilities Commission and give ratepayers an opportunity to avoid risky and dated alternative infrastructure developments.

We should not miss out on this opportunity. New Hampshire would be wise to plan and act on measures our state can take, and do so with an eye to the future.

Michael Behrmann is director of the NH Clean Tech Council.

Categories: Tech Advice