Grid-scale energy storage is slowly moving from its pilot-program phase to its early commercialization phase. And the slow road to commercialization at U.S. utilities comes in the form of requests for quotation and solicitations like the one just issued by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which approved a modest $3 million competitive solicitation "aimed at encouraging the development of renewable electric storage projects."

A 2012 Navigant study from the Department of Obvious Conclusions found the potential opportunities for energy storage on the New Jersey grid were:

  • Shifting the use of renewable generation to more suitable times of the day
  • Providing additional frequency regulation that might be needed with higher levels of renewable generation

The RFQ issued by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities cites the study, stating, "Two months after the release of the Navigant study, Superstorm Sandy knocked out power to millions of New Jersey residents and businesses and thousands of critical facilities. As a result, [an] important motivation emerged in support of energy storage market development: Hardening the state’s electric infrastructure and allowing essential services to continue operating during grid outages." (Read Stephen Lacey's e-book on the subject  for an in-depth look at Sandy and its impact on the grid.)

Other details from the RFQ:

  • The renewable energy system to which the energy storage project is integrated must be a behind-the-meter, net-metered system interconnected to the N.J. electric distribution system
  • The system must be sized to produce no more than 100 percent of the host facility’s historic annual electric consumption
  • The energy storage system may either be integrated with an existing renewable energy installation or with a yet-to-be-installed renewable energy system
  • Renewable electric storage projects must have a minimum capacity of 50 kilowatts
  • Storage systems must be capable of charging and discharging electricity only. Thermal storage systems are ineligible.

The New Jersey RFQ joins the other grid-scale energy storage solicitations we've covered recently.

The Imperial Irrigation District in California announced the shortlisted vendors for its 40-megawatt energy storage RFQ. The IID selected the following nine firms to continue to "the next phase of the solicitation process":

  1. AES Energy Storage
  2. Black & Veatch
  3. Coachella Energy Storage
  4. Duke Energy Business Services
  5. Invenergy Storage Development
  6. PMCCA, dba Performance Mechanical Contractors
  7. S&C Electric Company
  8. UC Synergetic  (Hitachi)
  9. ZBB Energy Corporation

As we've pointed out, there is already a roster of incumbents in this emerging field, and the decision-makers at IID went with companies that have track records or local connections. Notably, ZBB, a small zinc-bromide flow battery firm, is also on the short list. But startups without a track record or balance sheet are facing strong headwinds in these competitive bids.

Last June, the PUC asked California's big three investor-owned utilities to procure 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage by 2020, along with setting market mechanisms to launch the procurement process.

The 50-megawatt Southern California Edison Los Angeles Basin Energy Storage RFQ was notable for the effort taken to identify the true value of grid-scale energy storage. In the words of John Zahurancik, VP of Deployment and Operations at AES Energy Storage, "The Edison RFQ is the first formal recognition by a state that [energy storage] absolutely has value." Zahurancik sees the SCE solicitation as a "way to get started" in enhancing "local capacity and local reliability."  Praveen Kathpal, AES Energy Storage's VP of market and regulatory affairs, said that the RFQ is oriented toward local capacity requirements in the Los Angeles Basin -- a capacity alternative offering "where energy storage can perform the same functions as building a new peaking power plant." 

Hawaii Electric Co. launched one of the biggest energy storage proposals in the country this year, quietly opening up requests for proposals for 60 to 200 megawatts of storage projects to help manage the solar and wind power that’s wreaking havoc with Oahu’s island grid. As Jeff St. John just reported, the announcement from HECO subsidiary Hawaiian Electric asks for proposals for “one or more large-scale energy storage systems able to store 60 to 200 megawatts for up to 30 minutes.” That means the utility is looking for projects of at least 60 megawatts, with an eye on several separate projects to meet different grid needs around the island, HECO spokesperson Peter Rossegg said in an interview earlier this month. “We want someone to do the whole project, from design to testing to commissioning,” he said. “Beyond that, we could own it, we could turnkey it, we could do it on a provider basis. We’re trying to cast as wide a net as possible.” The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative put out a much smaller RFP in March and received nearly 100 responses, he noted, and HECO is expecting many more for Oahu.

New York state is, after California (and possibly Hawaii), the country’s biggest market for next-generation batteries and grid-scale energy storage. St. John notes that 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.