Storage is cool. It’s so ingrained in our daily lives that it’s invisible. From the pantry closet and fridge storing our food to fuel tanks in our homes and cars, storage gives us the advantage to have something when we need it. It’s there waiting to be used.
So, doesn’t it make a lot of sense to store excess power from photovoltaics and other distributed generation resources to provide backup during outages? And, wouldn’t storage change the intermittent nature of PV on cloudy days and at night into a more dispatchable resource? Couldn’t it also provide other grid services to help maintain power quality and reliability?
What’s holding distributed storage back? Why can’t a home with a solar roof keep its lights on during the storm that puts the rest of the street in the dark?
To get a handle on some of the issues on the table, I tapped the expertise of two very smart colleagues, Chris Cook and Sky Stanfield.
Chris, who is on IREC’s Board of Directors and (in full disclosure) the president and general counsel of Solar Grid Storage, says that “much like the debate that occurred with early solar incentive programs, the question once again arises with storage as to whether utilities should own those facilities.” The debate also continues on whether battery storage supporting solar should be co-located with distributed solar installations (at the customer site) or aggregated into larger community storage facilities that might be located at a utility substation.
Chris makes the point that if it is backup power that is the driver, a substation-based storage system does little in the way of providing backup power to the customer – storage at customer PV sites would be vastly preferable. “Contrast that with making solar PV dispatchable,” Chris explains. “If that is the desired outcome, then substation or even central storage is a fine solution and one doesn’t have to address the added cost and complexity of customer-sited storage.”
Sky, one of the lawyers who represents IREC, continued this thread at a recent Regulatory Advisory Board meeting by discussing that there are many types of storage technologies under development, and a variety of different locations in which storage can be deployed. “Where storage is deployed affects the types of functions it may serve and to whom those services are most directly provided,” Sky said.
The question is, what is the best approach to jump-start the conversation at the state level regarding removing barriers and creating opportunities for distributed storage.
IREC has been working on energy storage regulation in several states. Last year, we participated in a California regulatory proceeding to establish a watershed energy storage target of 1,325 megawatts for the state’s investor-owned utilities. IREC has also been participating in an innovative grid modernization effort in Massachusetts, and helping to think through interconnection issues for storage systems in a variety of forums. Part of our work ahead is to help disseminate the experiences gained in California and Massachusetts to other states.
While cost, ownership, location, type and other complexities need addressing, the solar/storage combo represents a premium power product.
Don’t hang up yet. I have some exciting news to share.
IREC gladly announces two new staff members.
As of April 1, Sara Baldwin Auck is IREC’s Regulatory Program Director. Three cheers. Sara has been Senior Policy and Regulatory Associate at Utah Clean Energy, a very effective non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization building the new clean energy economy. This is a new position at IREC, created in recognition of the importance of expanding IREC’s level of engagement in the regulatory arena. Sara will provide strategic leadership and overall management of IREC’s regulatory activities.
Last month, IREC welcomed Todd Venetz to our Wolf Road office in Albany as the field coordinator for IREC’s work with New York State clean energy workforce training providers. Todd is a decorated war veteran. In 2012, he received a BS in Energy and Sustainability Policy from Penn State and brings a talented range of training and energy skills and experience to this position.
We are lucky to welcome Sara and Todd to IREC’s Team.
And, we celebrate two new babies. IREC’s team member Brian Mattiske introduced us to Evelyn Brynna Mattiske. Congratulations to Brian, Carolyn and Owen on Evelyn’s arrival.
And, Baby Maren Passera was born on March 12. Congratulations to Laurel and Dante. Babies and families are all doing well.
I’m glad to share all of this good news. Talk with you soon.