By Claude Solnik, Long Island Business News.
400 Megawatt proposal would store energy for peak use.
As it reviews proposals for up to 2,500 megawatts of electricity, including wind, solar and cables, the Long Island Power Authority is considering the biggest battery in the world, focusing not on generating but on storing energy. The “grid scale energy storage” project would let LIPA use generators, cables or other sources to produce cheap power off peak, and then store it in AES Energy Storage’s 400-megawatt battery to be tapped during peak hours.
“If you can take power from the most efficient plants and replace power from the most inefficient, it helps to deliver cheaper power on peak,” said Brian Perusse in charge of development for North America and Europe at AES. “It’s using the assets that are there most efficiently.”
AES is touting the idea of focusing on storing rather than supplying power. “Whenever you’re producing output from a power plant, it has to be produced and consumed in real time,” said Praveen Kathpal, AES’ vice president of market and regulatory affairs. “This is a way to change that paradigm and allow us to use our resources more efficiently.”
LIPA Board Member David Calone said the authority’s “staff is doing a technical analysis of all of the proposals,” although it’s too early to decide which will advance.
But others said large-scale energy storage, at least in theory, could fit into Long Island’s energy future. “I think utility grid storage makes sense. It’s part of the equation we have to look at,” said Robert Catell, former KeySpan chairman and now chairman of the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center at Stony Brook University. “Storing electric energy has sort of been the Holy Grail for a long time. You can store natural gas and oil. But electricity has been very elusive.”
Grid power storage, typically using lithium ion batteries, is starting to catch on, but on a smaller scale than AES proposed. “You’re starting to see them implemented more and more,” Perusse said. “The technology started to arrive.”
The firm nearly two years ago built a 12-megawatt project in Chile and operates an 8-megawatt battery in Johnson City, N.Y. AES is building a 32-megawatt project in West Virginia that will be connected to the Laurel Mountain Wind Farm. Southern California Edison is doing an 8-megawatt project and Duke Energy is building a 36-megawatt project in Texas. But none has been done anywhere near the scale of the Long Island battery proposed by Arlington, Va.-based AES. Perusse, however, said it’s relatively easy to build larger projects, which could be built at one location or spread over various sites.
“The architecture of the systems scales very linearly, almost like Legos,” Perusse said. “The scaling is only a function of adding more batteries.”
He said batteries could generate power as needed without the time a generator needs to ramp up. “If we need to produce power, we can produce power nearly instantaneously,”
Perusse said. Although lithium ion batteries are the most likely candidates, Kathpal said various innovations could allow large-scale projects. Perusse said the latest generation of batteries is safer, more durable and more efficient than in the past, able to return about 90 percent of the power that’s stored. “There’s a variety of technologies,” Kathpal said. “Massive improvements have been made in battery technology in recent years.”
While AES didn’t say how much the project would cost, Kathpal said the company believes “our overall value and net cost is better than comparable resources.” AES’ 20-megawatt project in Johnson City cost about $23 million. Although cost could make or break this project, Long Island may be ideal for large-scale storage because it has only a few interconnections to other regions. “The value is greater where electric is more expensive on peak like Long Island,” Kathpal said. “That produces an opportunity for us to supply using less-expensive, more-efficient and cleaner energy.”
Catell said storage solutions could let LIPA rely on the most efficient generators, which brings other benefits. LIPA already has said it intends to stop buying power from the power plants in Far Rockaway and Glenwood Landing, among the region’s oldest. “To the extent we can reduce the amount of generation we need at the peak, that would be an economic and environmental benefit for Long Island,”Catell said.