In the state's crusade to revolutionise New York's energy grid, storage may be the next thing.
Intelligent energy storage is going to be an incredibly important player on the future energy grid, said Bill Acker, president of the the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium, at a conference in Manhattan recently. We have a number of issues on the grid that are solvable and tractable by adding intelligence and storage.
The New York Public Service Commission released a report last month laying out an overhaul of the state's energy grid, one of the oldest models in the country. The new plan, titled "Reforming the Energy Vision," calls for an embrace of distributed generationupending a system geared toward managing peak demand by blasting power plants and feeding an ever-increasing appetite for electricity during the hottest days of the year.
Energy storage, which is to say batteries, allows mercurial electricity gathered by wind and solar to be stored and harnessed at non-peak times for use when it is most needed. That reduces demand on the century-old grid and limits the use of peakers, often the most expensive and most pollutive power plants.
While there have been significant innovations in battery design and use, the technology is still in early days. (Think solar ten years ago.)
But the group of business leaders and researchers in the field who gathered for Wednesday night's meeting at WNYC's Jerome L. Greene Performance Space seemed to agree that storage, along with accompanying communications technology, is one of the most important fields in the energy sector, and by extension, the U.S.
Don't go into investment, Ted Wiley urged the college students in the audience for the panel discussion.
Wiley is the vice president of product and corporate strategy at Aquion Energy, a Pittsburgh-based manufacturer of saltwater electrolyte batteries that store energy on large and small scales.
At this point in history there are really some tremendous societal problems that are so much more important than money, Wiley said.
Wiley was joined on the panel by Andrew Reid, a senior engineer at Con Ed and Ryan Wartena, the founder of GELI, a software company that integrates energy storage systems allowing them to communicatea crucial element of demand response management, and one of the major challenges in changing the state's energy grid.
The main problems that battery technology faces are safety, cost and communication, the panelists said.
Panelists advocated for an abundance of open data sharing to allow energy system managers to monitor when batteries may be failing, when they need to turn on and when they should be storing up energy for later. The more real time data is assembled, the better systems will be at predicting what kind of energy is needed at any given moment.
You want to move from reactionary to predictive, said Con Ed's Reid. You can see things coming that can prevent unsafe situations.
What we're embarking on is the next layer of the internet, Wartena said. I really feel like this is why we invented computers.
Cost and investment remain significant factors in the widespread deployment of batteries, panelists said.
We're finally seeing bank-level financing of solar, Wartena said. It took us that long to see that the sun is going to come up every day.
Reid predicted the technology would not receive widespread investment, such as is happening with solar, until it was already in more widespread use.
You're going to see a lot of equity financed projects and a lot of manufacturer-backed projects until people get familiar with the technologies, Reid said. A lot of people are watching and waiting to see.
Then there is safety. Just like the batteries in a flashlight, large-scale energy storage systems are based on chemical reactions, mostly in lithium ion batteries.
I think its really really important that storage be safe, Wiley said. It needs to be something that can be deployed in and around us.
Again, improved software communication can help predict when a battery may be about to overcharge or fail. Better communication means more data sharing.
Internet technology did a good job of getting us comfortable doing online banking, Wartena said. That level needs to be applied to energy storage.
The panel, presented by Solar One and the New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Resilient Economy, was one in a series of citywide conferences in the run-up to Energy Week in June.
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