Energy storage is blooming afresh in the recently fallow PJM frequency regulation market.

The fast response RegD market kicked off large-scale storage development in the U.S., spurring deployment of roughly 300 megawatts. Declines in market clearing prices and rule changes last year, though, drastically reduced the payback opportunities for short-duration battery systems in that market, freezing new development.

Two veteran storage companies think it’s time for a thaw. Dynapower, the power conversion specialist and storage integrator, partnered with software provider Viridity to deploy two 20-megawatt/20-megawatt-hour systems in New Jersey in 2018.

That hour-long duration gives them the endurance to deliver the longer performance required by the new signal.

“The change in PJM RegD has caused a ton of problems for existing systems,” Viridity Energy Solutions CEO Mack Treece told GTM. “We’ve sized it appropriately to the signal.”

The companies also signed a master supplier agreement that suggests more collaborations to come. In the New Jersey projects, Dynapower will provide the equipment, while Viridity, with engineering and financing from corporate parent Ormat, will own and operate the asset.

Shock and recovery

It would be hard to overstate the disruption to energy storage participants when the rule changes in PJM’s fast-responding RegD market went into effect January 2017.

“The market redesign didn't pour a bucket of cold water on the industry as much as it just slammed the industry with the bucket itself,” said Daniel Finn-Foley, who tracks the market as an energy storage analyst at GTM Research.

A sizable storage system hasn't entered this market since that time, he added.

Early market entrants had built 15- or 20-minute batteries, which cost less than longer-duration units with the same power capacity.

Faced with a 30-minute signal, systems that can’t deliver see their performance score reduced, which lowers revenue and makes it harder to get dispatched in the future. Some operators bid in at lower power capacity so they could meet the longer signal (known as derating), but that reduces the revenue as well.

This has led to an understandable perception that PJM is not a good place to seek one’s fortune.

“I like people not having a great view on the frequency regulation market in PJM,” Treece said.

Instead, the Viridity/Dynapower team came up with a 20-megawatt, 1-hour system design. This strategy accepts higher cost of batteries in exchange for longer operational capability.

“RegD is not dead, but you have to be smart about it,” Treece said. “You have to have the right capacity to get high performance scores, and that’s how you make sure that you clear every day.”

The RegD signal has been known to dispatch for longer than 30 minutes — it did so nine times in Q1 of 2017, for instance. In such cases, the Dynapower system would outperform 30-minute storage systems, earning better performance scores and thus better compensation.

Long-term partners

Viridity built the business case around a 10-year operational plan, with payback coming “much earlier, Treece said. With the Dynapower equipment, though, he expects the system to last 20 years or more, with possible battery refurbishment along the way.

“This gear is going to be providing you reliable performance for decades, not just one,” said Dynapower President Adam Knudsen. “That’s something energy storage needs to expect from its supply chain.”

Knudsen added that Dynapower, founded in 1963, has units operating in the field that are older than him.

The companies also expect longevity in their working relationship.

The long-term partnership they signed is not exclusive, but includes favorable terms for partnering and an expectation to drive their pipelines together when appropriate. The two are already working on other projects, the executives noted.

The collaboration involves syncing up Dynapower's local controls, which manage battery system operations, with Viridity’s cloud-based algorithms to govern economic dispatch into the marketplace, to ensure optimal battery behavior.


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