Electricity Storage & Smart Grid Research Programs Launched By Indiana & New York

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Renewable energy technologies using wind or solar have long stirred questions about electricity storage for those times when it is either dark or windless. Add demand for a smart grid and a lot of work still needs to be accomplished. To this end, the states of New York and Indiana have launched storage and smart-grid research projects that might address some of these pressing issues. This is particularly positive news, especially pertaining to the storage end of the renewables equation.

pencil light bulbs_shutterstock_198721613According to a recent press announcement, the call for research into energy storage and related technologies has been given a boost by a major utility company, Duke Energy, committing funding in Indiana for renewables integration.

Duke Energy, headquartered in North Carolina and serving over seven million customers across a number of states, will fund $1 million into solar and wind storage programs at the Battery Innovation Center in Southern Indiana. The research will look at solar and wind integration using energy storage with particular regards to homes and communities.

PV-Tech reported last week that Duke Energy’s $1 million funding would see Indiana take a leadership role in energy storage, adding that the move emerges out of a commitment made as part of a settlement to Indiana’s consumers. According to a number of reports, Duke has had cost overruns and a number of other infractions in the building of a coal-fired plant. In a settlement with the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), Duke has committed to funding the Battery Innovation Center (BIC).

Indiana’s capital, Indianapolis, with 107 MW of PV installed, is ranked fourth among US cities for solar generation capacity by Environment America.

According to a BIC representative, BIC will create a simulated grid on which to test the effectiveness of the solar-and-wind-integrating storage. BIC will look at different hardware, software and battery options. The project will also see two energy storage systems installed at Indiana schools, paired with renewable energy generation sources.

Elsewhere, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week the creation of a research and development facility to support the stability of the state’s electrical grid.

The new facility, named the Advanced Grid Innovation Laboratory for Energy (AGILe), will ideally support the transition away from centralized generation and transmission of energy. The project is based on a partnership between the New York Power Authority and State University of New York Polytechnic Institute (SUNY).

According to a statement on the New York Governor’s official website, the centre will be a “world-class facility devoted to energy technology innovation and the rapid deployment of smart-grid technology”. Cuomo called it a “major investment in the state’s future”. Cuomo is apparently keen to harness the potential of private-public partnerships, with the commercialization of any technologies developed as a priority alongside supporting transmission infrastructure resilience.

New York already has an R&D laboratory specifically for energy storage and battery-based technologies, the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY BEST). The new centre announced by Governor Cuomo adds a broader examination of the grid network to state-wide priorities. Cuomo has long been an advocate of increased distributed generation and moving transmission and distribution away from the centralized “hub and spoke” system.

Expanding renewable energy research like the Indiana and New York projects will lay foundation work for other states to pursue similar clean energy projects.

Image: Pencil 3D light bulbs via Shutterstock

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6 thoughts on “Electricity Storage & Smart Grid Research Programs Launched By Indiana & New York

  • This sounds like the standard “more research is needed” line by Duke to delay switching to RE. In there market RE % are so low that they can easily low to already working systems to know ways to deal with 20x the amount RE they have now. Not saying research is bad, just that this is Duke green washing, plain and simple. Since Duke has both the generation and grid in their market, they work hard to prevent any RE getting online.

  • Here is something that has been in my thoughts for a couple of months, so this seems like the right place to bring it up and see what you all have to say about it.
    In this particular case it does say that part of the reason Duke is supporting this research is because of getting in trouble with the PUC, and with their very slow solar build out plans in Florida there are a lot of other things that can be done for renewable integration before it will be needed.
    It seems though that over the past year there have been a lot of utilities starting with grid storage projects, some at the behest of the state like in California, others in the interest of grid management, etc.
    But we also hear how much can be done in the way of efficiency, grid management, load shifting, EV adoption that can make higher renewable integration possible without the need for specific grid storage per se.
    Could it be that the utilities are jumping on the storage bandwagon as another way to continue their high initial investment (like with traditional power plants) then long term return in payments from the rate payers model that they are used to?
    I don’t deny that some storage will be needed in the long run, and yes the research to make it the most efficient, economic, etc is needed.
    It just seems that a lot of this is being done way before we have the renewables needing it, and before the other things like efficiency, load shifting that are less expensive than storage have been done.
    Thoughts anyone.
    Edit : and this is more of a US specific question, I know that places like Germany are much closer to needing grid storage.

    • You raise an interesting point with this comment:

      It just seems that a lot of this is being done way before we have the renewables needing it, and before the other things like efficiency, load shifting that are less expensive than storage have been done.

      Like to hear thoughts from any people from the utilities industry.

    • If you’re running a utility company and your tech people are telling you that there’s a good chance that storage is going to be cheaper than NG peakers and even CCNG in the near future wouldn’t you think it wise to dip a toe in?

      Run some small scale storage in order to have a team who fully understands how it best works. That’s you base if Ambri, Alevo or someone else releases a $100/kWh, 100 – 300+ year battery.

      That happens and it’s your ~3 cent electricity + <2 cents for storage against 6+ cent gas production (a lot more than 6c when one considers gas peaker prices).

      Also, utilities would be wise to get in early with storage and not let consumers install a lot of storage and mess up the utility business as has happened with solar.

      Duke started "getting it" some time back when they "postponed" their new nuclear builds and started buying wind farms.

      • Thanks for the thoughts Bob.
        If the storage can be done at a lower cost than the peaker plants for example then yes the financial aspects have it make sense.
        Maybe because most of this news is seen on here by myself it seems that the line about integrating renewables is usually included. So it makes me wonder if the storage cart is being done before the renewable horse, to use the old saying. From the utilities perspective this could make sense though,especially with how they seem to have been caught unaware with the rooftop solar to the point of resisting it.
        Part of my opinion comes from my small system too, where through the years both more storage and a lot of efficiency improvements have been done to achieve the balance of not using the generator. So the efficiency parts seem to have made the bigger difference. But I can see where from the grid perspective this may not work out the same way.
        Of course my general distaste for the incumbent monopolists could be contributing to my suspicion also. 🙂

        • EOS says that they can purchase electricity during off peak and sell it back for 10 – 12 cents per kWh on a daily cycle. That’s an ‘all in’ price, it includes everything – real estate, owner profits, etc.

          Look at the latest Lazard LCOE price for a new peaker plant – 18 to 23 cents.

          That tells me that a utility that is using gas peakers to meet daily demand is going to save money by switching to storage for the frequent cycle stuff.

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