Study: Storage could deliver 600 MW in 10 years

Officials say incentives could lead to “game-changer” in renewable energy

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

WITH THE RIGHT amount of encouragement, energy storage technology – a field that can range from batteries to more novel contraptions – could account for 600 megawatts of energy in Massachusetts by 2025, providing more than $800 million in savings and reducing greenhouse gases by the equivalent of removing 73,000 cars from the road, according to a new study.

“Storage is going to be an integral technology,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton told reporters Friday. He called it a potential “game-changer,” a term that others have also used to describe the technology’s promise.

Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson on Friday stood beside a storage module made of lithium ion batteries, which could generate 100 kilowatt hours of energy. Developed by NEC Energy Solutions, the module can store enough energy to power a small neighborhood, according to director of sales Doug Alderton.

Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson said storage could reduce the impact of the costliest days for purchasing electricity when power generation is stretched thin and prices spike. Electricity costs fluctuate constantly with the changing cost of fuel and other means of generation.

Judson said last year the most expensive 1 percent of electricity hours accounted for 8 percent of electrical costs.

There is a range of ways storage technology could be used, she said. Utilities could install storage as part of their work on substations that send power from the grid toward consumers, she said, or homes and businesses could operate their own storage devices to reduce their electrical costs.

The “State of Charge” report recommends encouragement from government to boost the storage market. It recommends some form of rebate for storage, promotion of a storage “cluster” in Massachusetts, and doubling the size of a planned $10 million request for proposals for demonstration projects, which officials now say they are hoping to release this fall. A spring launch had been previously planned.

“We’re in the very, very nascent stages of this, and we still do have a lot to learn,” said Stephen Pike, the interim CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. Calling storage the “Swiss Army knife of the clean energy industry,” Pike said the center’s wind testing facility in Charlestown plans to install solar panels on its roof and incorporate storage there, allowing it to serve as an “in-house test bed.”

There are roughly 2 megawatts of electrical storage in Massachusetts today, which is about comparable to the array of solar generation nine years ago, before that industry took off.

Judson said storage can be deployed by utilities on the grid – with lawmakers authorizing distribution companies to own storage in a recent energy law – by municipalities seeking to build up resiliency in case of outages, or by homes and businesses of varying sizes.

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Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

“We’re starting to see interest across all of those cases,” Judson said. Pike said interest from the industry led to the recommendation to double the $10 million demonstration project amount, which is funded by alternative payments for compliance with the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.

Despite the potential for savings and environmental benefits, there are still challenges to monetizing energy storage, Judson said.

Alderton, director of sales for NEC Energy Solutions, was joined by state officials at the Saltonstall Building in Boston Friday for a display of a tall stack of batteries that can hold 100 kilowatt hours of electricity. Weighing 300-to-400 pounds, the storage tower contains multiple 5-kilowatt lithium ion batteries, operating in silence, generating some heat and slowly degrading over time, according to Alderton, who said they can last 10 to 20 years. Alderton said similar battery devices can be deployed in storage containers, with a single storage container providing 1 to 1.5 megawatts of power for a factory “for a couple of hours.”