New York state is, after California (and possibly Hawaii), the country’s biggest market for next-generation batteries and grid-scale energy storage. The action includes Long Island Power Authority’s request for up to 150 megawatts of energy storage, a soon-to-be-unveiled storage incentive program from Consolidated Edison, and emerging opportunities in microgrids, behind-the-meter storage, renewable energy integration and other grid edge applications.
These opportunities are attracting many players, ranging from universities and Department of Energy labs and spinouts and startups developing projects with the New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), to international energy storage technology vendors and project developers. All are seeking validation of their technologies, as well as clarity on how the state’s changing energy regulations will create new opportunities for storage projects to pay for themselves.
These are the complicated tasks that the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST) was formed to help manage. Since its 2010 founding, the nonprofit group has since grown to 130 members and has led many public-private efforts to guide technology and policy development in the state. Last month, it opened a $23 million advanced battery testing and commercialization facility in Rochester, making it the go-to entity for proving out new battery chemistries and configurations at grid scale as well.
“These are exciting new markets that require an understanding of how to put products out in the field,” Bill Acker, NY-BEST executive director, explained in an interview last week. That ranges from making sure they work at the battery cell level, all the way up to systems integrated into as close to real-world grid conditions as possible, he said.
To get there, NY-BEST has partnered with DNV GL, an international energy technical consultancy, which put about $16 million into moving equipment from its Chalfont, Penn. testing facility to the new center at the Eastman Business Park. DNV is expecting to test systems of up to 1 megawatt in size, according to Hugo Van Nispen, director of DNV’s energy advisory division -- something few labs can offer.
It’s also able to tap into another rare resource, Acker said -- the 125-megawatt on-site microgrid at the park. That could allow for a number of live grid tests in conjunction with local power generation and balancing, the kind of thing usually accessible only through utility pilot projects.
“We have a number of startup companies and technologies coming out of universities and other sources,” he said. “One of the key things those startups need is to have validated data to convince financiers and potential customers that their technology is real.”
That may require pushing new technologies past their breaking point, Van Nispen noted. DNV regularly finds a 25 percent failure rate in new high-voltage equipment coming through its labs, and these are well-understood technologies, he said. Untested energy storage technologies will require even more scrutiny of their performance characteristics under all kinds of different conditions.
While many labs can help with computer modeling and simulation, “All the modeling in the world, while useful, doesn’t take away from the value of the new battery center we have in Rochester, or our facility in Chalfont, to take the physical asset and run it through real tests,” he said. After all, “catastrophic failure, whether it be a fire or an explosion, is very difficult to model until after the fact.”
The list of companies which "test in our facilities tends to be relatively confidential,” he said. In other words, NY-BEST isn’t disclosing who might be booking time at the facility, though Van Nispen noted that both in-state and out-of-state parties have expressed interest.
NY-BEST is also tracking developments in the various storage opportunities emerging in the state, Acker said. This week, it’s participating in a public discussion with Greentech Media, Solar One and NYC ACRE on the opportunities for intelligent, distributed energy storage.
On May 22, it’s holding a conference on Con Edison and NYSERDA’s storage incentive proposal for New York City, which is part of a broader plan to mitigate the effects of the coming closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. That program is “really about creating capacity between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on summer afternoons, and requires discharge for four hours at that time,” he noted.
“But don’t think of that as the sole outcome of the broader program to revamp the grid,” he added. “This is part of New York state’s efforts to really rethink the electricity system in the state,” including the recently announced plan to overhaul utility regulations and grid operations to reward distributed and customer-owned energy resources.