Energy storage remains key component of clean-energy agenda

on February 26, 2018

NJ-SpotlightIf New Jersey is going to achieve the Murphy administration’s ambitious clean-energy goals, storing the energy created by renewable power sources such as solar and wind will be crucial.

To that end, a controversial nuclear subsidy bill up for consideration today in committees and posted for a vote on Monday in the state Senate also sets goals of 600 megawatts of energy storage by 2021, and 2,000 megawatts by 2030.

Few are asking whether the energy-storage targets are achievable, even though the industry is just starting to deploy the technology, or what the costs could be, which are almost certain to be partly borne by utility customers.

But there is widespread consensus that energy storage not only makes intermittent sources of power like solar and wind more reliable — the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow — but also offers other benefits to ratepayers in the long run.

Meeting peak demand

With extensive commercial energy storage available, the power grid will no longer need large reserve margins of power ready to provide when electric needs peak, nor will there be as much need for expensive “peaker” plants, according to Paul Patterson, an energy analyst with Glenrock Associates.

That means cheaper costs to electric customers, predicted Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, who calls energy storage the forgotten child of the clean-energy revolution. “It will benefit ratepayers in the long term.”

But only if policymakers work out kinks in the regulatory system here in New Jersey that have frustrated state efforts to move the technology, which uses batteries to store energy produced by a wide array of sources, forward.

Three years ago, the state Board of Public Utilities gave out $3 million in grants to 13 projects to build energy storage alongside renewable energy facilities. None moved forward, caught up in a regulatory barrier imposed by PJM Interconnection, the operator of the regional power grid, according to Peter Peretzman, a spokesman for the state agency.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsEnergy storage remains key component of clean-energy agenda