Beyond California: Other Energy Storage All Stars

by Anna Gretz
January 11, 2018

We could rave all day about the growth of energy storage in CA (we’re biased… we know), but there are a number of other areas of the country who are stepping forward and making some serious commitments to renewables… including solar and energy storage. It’s the energy storage headlines that make us the most excited, like the latest news rolling in from New York.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wanted to kick off 2018 with something big: a series of exciting clean energy proposals. One, in particular, really shook things up (in a good way): a pledge to deploy 1,500 megawatts of energy storage by the year 2025. That’s what we like to hear.

New York state has a goal of reaching 50 percent renewable energy by 2030--the energy storage pledge is going to help them get there. New York’s goal of 1,500 megawatts is putting California’s 1,300-megawatt mandate to shame (well, we would be ashamed if it weren’t all on the same team, here.) Other states jumping in with their own energy storage goals include a 200 megawatt-hour proposal from Massachusetts, and a small-but-worth-mentioning 5 megawatt-hour goal put up by Oregon (you can do better, OR, but at least you’re trying.)

New York puts energy storage goals back into the headlines, and we’re hoping it will inspire more states to jump in with their own proposals. This is a domino effect we can get behind. Or in front of, depending on how the dominoes are stacked.

Alicia Barton, the president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (whew. Let’s go with NYSERDA, instead) says that they’re gunning for California’s spot on the energy storage leaderboard.

“New York intends to be a leading state for energy storage deployment,” said Barton. “This helps us put a stake in the ground to say New York is a market where you should be spending time.” The NYSERDA will be overseeing an ongoing plan to achieve New York’s new objectives, and will also disburse funding for energy storage projects.

New York’s latest clean energy proposals are especially refreshing because of their specified focus on energy storage itself. Storage is an incredibly valuable tool, but it hasn’t been named specifically in many energy policy developments, specifically in New York. Cuomo has been pushing for a power grid overhaul since 2016, but it wasn’t until this year that he tapped energy storage as the best option for managing all of the intermittent renewable energy sources they were dealing with. Other states would be smart not ot make the same mistake here, and to include energy storage as an essential grid asset to a rejuvenated, renewable, and more distributed grid right from the start.

And speaking of other states, at least some are going to be pretty jealous about the route in which NY plans to chart a path to energy storage prowess. It starts with an eradication of a lot of the red tape that has been keeping energy storage at bay for so long. New York, like many of the other states in the US, has historically had a number of bureaucratic barriers in the path of energy storage deployments. The new mandates target these roadblocks, and open up the state to a clear and smooth ride for members of the storage industry.

To show that they mean it, Cuomo has thrown $260 million to NYSERDA to help direct an energy storage boom in New York--a move that Cuomo hopes will jump-start storage activity, as well as create tens of thousands of jobs in the state. Barton says that the combination of new goals and new funding has given them a newfound sense of purpose.

“It instills a sense of urgency to our work and a clarity about that urgency,” Barton said. “It puts regulators and implementing agencies like NYSERDA on notice of the target we need to be aiming for in our work.”

Cuomo and the folks at NYSERDA are also hoping that the new funding will break down the barriers faced by private investors on their way to finance clean energy, and when it comes to batteries, there are quite a few. Since the industry is relatively new, and batteries themselves are pretty complex pieces of technology, financing can get a little sticky. NYSERDA plans to get some major capital out there in an accessible way while lenders are still wrapping their head around the value of battery storage. The economic viability of energy storage in New York is about to hit a long-awaited uptick.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about New York’s motivation… and how it can inform other states to follow suit. Cuomo was clear that he recognizes that the peaker plants currently operating in New York are doing some harm. We’re talking about harm locally in NY, but also some major greenhouse-gas emissions that are going to put everyone in a tight spot.

(Quick note: a “Peaker Plant” is a power plant that generally only runs when there’s an extra high demand for electricity. This is often referred to as peak demand, hence the name given to the power plant. Peaker plants have to rev up and cool back down quickly and often, making them an especially dirty form of energy generation.)

New York City has a particularly old and boisterous army of peaker plants located on the poor side of town. The problem has an easy fix, though. You guessed it: energy storage. It’s pretty easy for these plants to be replaced by energy storage, which is able to provide the same amount of energy capacity, without all of the harmful pollution. Pretty much everyone agrees this is ideal.

Peakers in New York have been but culprits of smog-forming pollution, putting them especially high on the governor’s hit list. William Acker, the executive director of the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium, is on board.

“Applying appropriate emission requirements to the peaker plants and considering environmental justice will likely create a great deal of opportunity,” Acker said. We’ll be tracking with these new opportunities in New York, here at home in California, and in other states across the country in the coming year. Stay tuned for more energy storage updates here on The Swell.