Energy Storage: The Next Big Deal Part 2

a guest post by Ken Whiteside, Director of Business Development at ONTILITY, LLC.

Energy Storage The Next Big Deal Part 2

We recently looked at advances in energy storage technology which are approaching commercialization, moving from the lab to the marketplace. These developments are accelerating the adoption of storage for electricity produced using variable renewable sources, a long-sought-after grail in renewable energy. Now let’s look at some policy and market trends that are also helping catalyze that commercialization.

In 2012, California once again put itself on the leading (or bleeding) edge of energy policy when its state government passed the nation’s first statewide energy storage directive. This mandate requires all investor-owned utilities including Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric, to jointly purchase "1325 megawatts of energy storage" by 2020. The utilities will own some of the storage assets, but at least 50 percent will come from independent developers across all segments of the grid. This "all source solicitation" will open the door to a variety of storage technologies and business models and thus enhance the mandate’s value as a test bed for the rest of the country.

Not to be outdone by left-coast upstarts, New York’s Governor Cuomo, in the summer of 2013, announced a $23 million public-private investment in a battery testing and commercialization center being established in Rochester. Then a few months later, Cuomo’s office announced that it would provide $1.5 million to NOHMs Technologies to help establish a nano-scale battery materials manufacturing facility, also in Rochester. This pilot project will, in addition to advancing leading edge energy storage technology, generate about 100 jobs.

At the federal level, the Department of Energy has released a Grid Energy Storage report. In it, the DOE addresses issues and challenges facing energy storage and calls for it to be:

  • A broadly deployable asset for enhancing large-scale renewable energy penetration
  • Available to industry and regulators to enhance grid resiliency and reliability
  • A well-accepted contributor to realization of smart-grid benefits – specifically enabling confident deployment of electric transportation and optimal utilization of demand-side assets.

The report sites four challenges for the achievement of these goals: cost-competitiveness, verifiable reliability and safety, regulatory equity, and industry acceptance.

Finally, in January, the Energy Storage Association announced that it had changed its name (it was the Electricity Storage Association) and appointed a new executive director, Matthew Roberts, who has a background in the deployment of advanced transportation fuels, and served as a consultant in the renewable energy industry. While perhaps not earth shattering in its impact, it is telling when a trade association makes this kind of move – clearly aligning itself with a growing trend.

Whether it’s big-state governments issuing mandates and funding significant research and development, or it’s the feds using their bully pulpit to push development in a specific direction, or a trade group adjusting its focus in response to changing market conditions, or the number of inquiries about battery back-up systems a solar contractor gets, the signs are clear. Energy storage is entering a new phase of importance and usefulness. It is moving from the fringe to the mainstream, rapidly. For those of us on the front lines of the solar industry, the message is also clear, energy storage is something we must know about, something we can readily include in our solar products and services. Our customers will appreciate our expertise.

Ken Whiteside photo Ken Whiteside has been a fan of solar energy for decades. His first hands-on experience was installing solar on off-grid houses around Telluride, Colorado in the 1990’s (summer in the San Juan Mtns. - somebody had to do it). From his home in Austin, Ken writes and works for widespread adoption of solar electricity, smart energy production and use, and sustainability.

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