Whelp, it looks like the US coal industry is going to end the 2010s the way it started. Back in 2009, US coal producers probably didn’t know they were staring down at the bottom of an abyss fueled by natural gas and renewable energy — or if they knew, they weren’t telling. Now that the 2020s are here, a major new threat to coal is taking shape in the form of long-duration energy storage. And it’s happening in Vermont, of all places.
Aside from hydropower dams and “water batteries,” no utility-scale storage technology on the market today can provide the long-duration standard of 10 or more hours. That goal has been set by the US Department of Energy, which would actually prefer a duration range of up to 100 hours but will settle for 10, for now.
Lithium-ion batteries are currently the go-to technology for energy storage, but they only provide for a few hours at a time. Scaling up an Li-ion array with staggered discharge times could be an option, but it’s not particularly cost-effective.
Meanwhile, the Energy Department is aggressively seeking long-duration, utility-scale batteries for two related reasons, neither of which spells good new for coal, or for that matter, natural gas.
First, more energy storage translates into more grid integration for renewables, which is another target of the Energy Department, despite anti-renewable mutterings from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Second, more grid integration for renewables means a greater need for modern grid services that provide for flexibility and resiliency, which can be fostered by utility scale energy storage.
More Energy Storage For Vermont
That brings us to Vermont. The UK company Highview Power is bringing its long-duration energy storage technology to Vermont in partnership with one of the top 20 solar developers in the US. That would be Vermont-based Encore Renewable Energy. For those of you keeping score at home, Encore won the #19 slot in Solar World’s “Top Solar Contractors” list.
The new project makes it clear why the Energy Department is eyeballing long duration energy storage for the sparkling green grid of the future. Highview’s big new battery will allow for bringing more renewables into the Vermont grid and that’s just for starters.
As described by Highview, the new battery will also provide market arbitrage, synchronous voltage support, frequency regulation and reserves, synchronous inertia, black start capabilities, and other services that monetize the facility while efficiently balancing electricity supply and demand.read more