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An Update on Energy Storage Nationally and in North Carolina

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Diane Cherry's picture
Principal Diane Cherry Consulting, LLC

Diane Cherry is a woman owned small business providing clean energy consulting services for local government, clean energy companies, non-profits and educational institutions. Her projects and...

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  • Apr 28, 2021
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Update on Storage Policy in NC & Nationally

At the North Carolina State Energy Virtual Conference this past week, I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion from several panelists on the growing national and global trends in energy storage, as well as studies and projects around storage in North Carolina.

Current Action

Despite the pandemic and its resultant chaos, the number of energy storage installations in 2020 broke records across the U.S. At the State Energy Conference, Jamease Leonard, Manager at energy consulting firm ScottMadden, Inc., noted that this upward growth in storage success is driven primarily by continued cost decreases in storage technology, particularly lithium-ion batteries. Utilities with implemented storage have shown better operating performance than previously expected, and deployment continues to skyrocket; between 2018 and 2021, 20 states added more than 50 megawatts (MW) of energy storage and capacity, with 17 of those states adding more than 100 MW.

California, for example, has the largest energy storage market in the United States, surpassing the capacity of the PJM regional transmission organization (RTO) in 2019. Installations have boomed, with two projects in particular comprising 550 MW—a large portion of their expected capacity in 2020. Energy storage policy has dominated state bills since 2011, and implementation has been bolstered by amenable leadership as well as generous bilateral contracts with utilities and aggregators. The state of Massachusetts also added 37 MW of storage in 2020, second only behind California's progress. Massachusetts' initiatives, however, were primarily smaller, distributed projects ranging from one to five MW in size.

Though we're moving in the right direction with energy storage as a whole, Leonard pointed out a few remaining necessities to igniting faster growth:

  • Overcoming leadership and regulatory challenges to increased deployment
  • Making necessary changes in storage's application to increase system capacity—i.e., shifting applications to both behind and in front of the meter to provide more reliable power
  • Growing interest, research, and development of longer-term technologies—i.e., cost-effective batteries that can store energy for greater spans of time (lithium-ion fall short over long durations)

The NC Energy Storage Study

2017's House Bill 589, Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina, directed the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory at UNC Chapel Hill to study the values and services that energy storage can provide to North Carolina and to make policy recommendations. NC State University, led by Principal Investigator Joe DeCarolis, conducted the study, and issued the final report in December of 2018.

The study demonstrated many net positive benefits when projecting battery use in 2030, and recommended three categories of policy options:

  • Prepare: Address potential gaps or areas of uncertainty—planning provisions, definition of ownership, net metering rules in relation to utilization of storage, interconnection rules, adoption of local codes etc.
  • Facilitate: Consider interventions to increase the value or decrease cost of energy storage—develop competitive procurement, standard offer, new tariff structures, etc.
  • Accelerate: Increase pace of energy storage deployment—develop storage-specific incentives, incorporate storage, etc.

During the State Energy Conference panel session, DeCarolis acknowledged that the outlook for energy storage in NC is promising, given that innovation is lowering costs at a much quicker rate than expected. Lithium-ion battery prices have dropped much closer than the projected 2030 value even in the three years since the study was published. However, storage-related policy in the state still needs more development. Though storage has been showing up in more recent dockets, including a number of options within Duke Energy's 2020 IRP, there are still many regulatory questions to be answered in order to further grow this industry.

Duke Energy Projects and Progress in NC

Zak Kuznar, the Managing Director of Regulated Renewables for Duke Energy, presented a brief rundown of Duke Energy's engagement in energy storage development. The utility's first battery storage projects (400 KW and 36 MW came online in 2011 and 2012 as R&D pilots, and a number of larger projects have been installed since. Energy storage efforts are key in meeting Duke Energy's 2020 updated carbon reduction goals, which include a net-zero scenario by 2050 that requires significant renewable and storage growth.

In 2020, the Asheville/Rock Hill battery came online, offering peak load shaving and ancillary services. At 8.8 MW/MWh, it's the largest operational storage project in North Carolina. Another project underway is the Hot Springs Microgrid, a 5 MW/MWh battery coupled with a 2 MW ground-mounted solar array and a microgrid controller. Set for operations in Q3 2021, this project will offer peak load shaving, ancillary services, and back-up power for the town of Hot Springs.

Electric Cooperatives and Municipal Utilities

David Sarkisian, Senior Project Manager for the NC Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC), discussed how cooperatives and municipal utilities are working to implement energy storage technology.

NCCETC implements storage projects with cooperatives and municipalities, as well as tracks nationwide storage policies and deployment via their DSIRE database (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency).

Project examples include:

  • Fayetteville PWC Community Solar and Storage Project: This project is funded as a part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Community Solar for the Southeast project, and developed an economic model to evaluate community solar and storage projects in the area. Fayetteville deployed a 500 KW battery system in fall of 2019.
  • Solar-Plus for Electric Cooperatives (SPECs) Project: This initiative adds value stream insight to economic modeling around storage and conducts reviews of procurement best practices and policy/institutional considerations

Electric cooperatives may have trouble defining policies and linguistic terms to govern their storage deployment. This primarily falls within the realm of their wholesale power contracts with their generation and transmission supplier.

The North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC) is the generation and transmission supplier for NC's electric cooperatives, and has been working in recent years to set up storage projects with its members. NCEMC has procured storage through a partnership with the National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO), and the Corporation stands as the owner of the storage capacity (rather than the member cooperatives themselves). This allows these co-ops to avoid problematic limits on generation capacity, while still providing availability to deploy storage within their local grids.

Eight NCEMC member utilities have deployed projects thus far, with solar facilities ranging from one to five MW, and battery facilities ranging from 2 MWh to 10 MWh. These initiatives provide benefits such electricity resilience (example: on Ocracoke Island, where a microgrid will assist with outages during storms); support for sustainability initiatives and low-income support programming; flexible charging protocols and demand management resources; and more.

 

It is exciting to see the energy storage progress since 2018 when the NC State Energy Storage Study was completed, and I look forward to seeing what the next couple of years brings.

 

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Thank Diane for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 28, 2021

Electric cooperatives may have trouble defining policies and linguistic terms to govern their storage deployment. This primarily falls within the realm of their wholesale power contracts with their generation and transmission supplier.

Is this problem exclusive to, or somehow exasperated by, the status as a coop? Or is it more of an industry wide trend to watch? 

Diane Cherry's picture
Diane Cherry on Apr 29, 2021

You know I haven't really thought of that - all I know is that what has been interesting to watch in a vertically integrated state like NC the major energy resilience and transmission deferral projects have come from coops and munis. Duke has done a couple in western NC but the diversity of projects is really from the coops//munis.

Kimberly McKenzie-Klemm's picture
Kimberly McKenzie-Klemm on Apr 29, 2021

I wonder how many of the regional states by group include buying and selling stored energy to one another by contract while refusing other states first...

Diane Cherry's picture
Diane Cherry on Apr 29, 2021

So we don't have an RTO in the Southeast so I'm not sure how to answer that.

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