New York City is in the trenches when it comes to employing innovative energy technologies, which it hopes will help meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2050. How so? By installing 100 megawatt/hours of energy storage, which may also allow the city's consumers to avoid buying dirtier power -- something that could save electricity customers there millions each year, a new study says.
Balancing the electricity load is a difficult job. Storage devices, if they can be shown to work at commercial scale, would be a huge boon for utilities that are trying to do everything from advance renewable power to cut electricity use during peak demand. Today, storage adds value to power systems because it can create capacity. And that has the potential to allow utilities to defer investment in expensive infrastructure and carbon-intensive power plants.
Power producers are infatuated with energy storage, realizing that it could be a game-changer. But they are readily acknowledging that technical and financial barriers exist and that overcoming them is paramount if the devices are to reach their potential. An application could be anything from shaving peak load to storing and injecting wind and solar electrons onto the grid.
“As the (New York) state moves forward to meet its clean energy goals of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 and an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, there are increasing questions about how we can best ensure the reliability of the electricity grid while reducing our reliance on fossil-fuel generation,” New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST) Willam Acker said.
“This study illustrates that replacing these older peaking plants with energy storage presents a cost-effective strategy for reducing harmful air emissions, protecting public health and maintaining grid reliability,” he added. New York City set a goal in September 2016 to install 100 megawatt/hours of energy storage by 2020, along with 1,000 megawatts of solar capacity by 2030.
The consortium has jointly produced a report this week with the consulting firm Strategen, which says that by deploying energy storage, New York City electricity customers could avoid spending $268 million a year — all to lock up capacity from older steam and combustion turbines that run just a few hours a year. The analysis says that if 5% of those outlays were allocated instead to such storage devices, the city could procure 450 megawatt/hours.
Right now, the “levelized cost” – the cost of continuous operations – of battery production is between 15 cents and 30 cents per kilowatt/hour, depending on the application and the type of storage device. For comparative purposes, natural gas cost 7 cents per kilowatt/hour. Energy storage cost must come down.
But experts say that this will happen, given that such companies as Tesla Inc. are investing $5 billion into a battery storage manufacturing facility while the states are also involved. California, for example, is mandating investments in energy devices, which should create economies of scale. To that end, it is requiring its incumbent utilities to provide 1,325 megawatts of energy storage capacity by 2020. Edison International, PG&E Corp. and Sempra Energy are participating.
Earlier this year, Tesla joined forces with Edison’s Southern California Edison to utilize Tesla’s Powerpack on the grid. The goal is to avoid momentary electricity outages, which increases reliability. Such efficiencies mean that there will be more room on the wires for green electrons.
"Batteries allow us to capture and store energy during times of low demand, when it is plentiful and inexpensive, and use it during times of high demand, when energy is in short supply and more expensive,” SoCalEd said.
Many of today’s storage devices can inject about 15-45 minutes of power into the grid. An optimal battery may go for 3 to 5 hours, and run at 90 percent efficiency -- meaning that little energy is lost during the production process. If the battery could go for 6-10 hours, experts say that it would cover 98 percent of all outages and it could be used as back-up power.
The demand for electrical power is expected to grow. With that comes the need to be more reliable as well as cleaner. Energy storage can help by injecting electrons just when they are needed, which increases efficiencies and which also has the potential to reduce emissions. Headway has been made. But, by all accounts, more progress is necessary. New York City’s efforts are a step in that direction and one that is likely to help it achieve its environmental and energy goals.
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