Rhode Island, Maryland, New Hampshire: Battery storage emerges in US’ lesser-heralded states

Rhode Island, Maryland, New Hampshire: Battery storage emerges in US’ lesser-heralded states

Update 25 May 2021: The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources contacted Energy-Storage.news to point out that although at the time of publication, only one incentive programme for storage, the ConnectedSolutions scheme, was listed on its website, the state does offer one other pilot programme: called the Energy Storage Adder Pilot Program offered through the Renewable Energy Fund (REF), the office's spokesperson said that "through this pilot programme, small-scale, commercial-scale, and brownfield solar PV systems earn an adder incentive for pairing eligible energy storage systems. These incentives range from US$2,000 to US$40,000, depending on the type of energy storage system". 

 

There are perhaps four or five US states which have become prolific in their deployment of battery energy storage systems. The growth of large-scale battery systems in places like California, Hawaii, Texas, Arizona and New York might naturally form the bulk of our US project news coverage here at Energy-Storage.news, but it’s also interesting to hear about what’s happening in regions where that development is still at an earlier stage.

One example is the steady proliferation of batteries paired with renewable generation in states that have long relied on coal. As that era of coal dominance looks set to end, driven as much by economics as any environmental policies, in the last year or so we’ve heard about huge hybrid resources projects of that type in Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Indiana along with smaller projects in Kansas and Ohio.

Virginia meanwhile has seemingly gone all-in on storage. In fact among seven US states that currently have an energy storage deployment target or mandate in place, Virginia’s 100% clean energy transition policy actually includes the biggest such target of them all so far.

Elsewhere, on the east and northeastern side of the country, Massachusetts gets most of the attention of late for its support for solar-plus-storage through the Massachusetts SMART programme. To the north and south of Massachusetts are New Hampshire and Rhode Island, respectively, and a few states further south sits Maryland.

Here are some projects we’ve learned about since the beginning of May that may signal the start of the battery energy storage age in those three US states which are not yet known for their adoption of the technology:

Biggest BESS in the US’ smallest state

Rhode Island is only 48 miles from north to south and 37 miles from east to west. It’s the smallest state by size in the US, but Rhode Island has big ambitions in renewable energy and decarbonisation.

It introduced an Executive Order in early 2020 setting a goal of meeting 100% of electricity demand with renewable energy by 2030, 15 years earlier than California’s 2045 goal. Rhode Island is also part of the New England and Mid-Atlantic US Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperation between 11 states to create a market-based programme for emissions reduction.

That said, the development of energy storage is still at an early stage and while the state’s Office of Energy Resources recognises its various benefits, the only incentives open to storage listed on the office’s website are the ConnectedSolutions programmes for residential and commercial electricity customers run by utility National Grid for reducing use of electricity at peak times.

Distributed energy developer Agilitas Energy emailed Energy-Storage.news at the beginning of this month to announce the start of construction of Rhode Island’s biggest battery energy storage system (BESS) so far.

The 3MW / 9MWh lithium-ion BESS is being built in Pascoag, a village in Providence County with a population just under 5,000 people. The system will provide peak shaving services to the local Pascoag Utility District as well as ancillary services for grid-balancing for regional transmission network and energy market operator ISO-New England.

Expected to enter commercial operation by the second quarter of 2022, Agilitas Energy president Barrett Bilotta said the BESS would “obviate the need for adding costly transmission infrastructure and create a win-win for all parties including the Pascoag’s customers”.

“The battery storage system will allow us to modernise our infrastructure and avoid the more costly re-construction of existing transmission lines. The battery energy storage systems help fulfil our goal to control costs while we assure reliable power,” Pascoag Utility District general manager Mike Kirkwood said.

Stationary batteries to integrate moving batteries

Approval was given in mid-May for two BESS projects in Allegany and Frederick counties, Maryland, including one to help integrate electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and the increased demand for electricity that comes with them.

Regulator Maryland Public Service Commission granted approval to utility Potomac Edison, a utility which serves over 400,000 customers in Maryland and West Virginia. Potomac Edison is a subsidiary of the much larger FirstEnergy, which operates thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines in addition to its ownership of electric distribution utility companies like Potomac Edison in several states.

Potomac Edison will install a 500kW / 1,000kWh BESS at a Maryland Department of Transportation Park and Ride Lot in Frederick County, adjacent to a new EV fast-charging station operated by the utility. The project is expected to cost around US$1.1 million and will enable uninterruptible EV charging and reduce the load drawn from the grid by charging vehicles during peak times.

The utility said it will study how battery storage can reduce strain on the distribution network when demand spikes and the fast-charging station can run off the batteries as a backup power source in the event of an outage.

Also approved was a 1.75MW BESS which is designed to provide backup power to customers in Allegany and Washington counties during outages. Potomac Edison has selected energy storage developer Convergent Power + Energy as its partner on that project.

Both projects are expected to go into service next year, and both projects were proposed through a pilot programme hosted by the state of Maryland. Kelly Speakes-Backman, former CEO of the US national Energy Storage Association (ESA) — for whom Maryland is her home state — told this site last year that the pilot programme was exciting because it really focuses on ownership models and the business case and value that each storage project could demonstrate.

This means that while each project may be fairly small, they have a good opportunity to create a much wider market for energy storage in Maryland modelled directly on the needs of the electricity system. Incidentally at the beginning of this year, Speakes-Backman was drafted in by the Biden-Harris presidential administration and recruited to the federal Department of Energy (DoE) as the assistant secretary and principal deputy secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

New Hampshire: Primed for the age of storage?

Perhaps best known outside the US as a key battleground in the presidential election cycle, hosting the first of the primary elections each time around, New Hampshire hasn’t exactly been first past the post when it comes to energy storage.

Member-owned electric distribution cooperative New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) has just inaugurated its first utility-scale battery storage project which will charge up from the coop’s distribution grid at times of low demand and discharge during regional peaks.

Built at the site of an NHEC 2MW solar PV array, the 2.45MW / 4.9MWh battery storage system has been developed by ENGIE North America, which will own and operate the system. NHEC estimates that by reducing peak electricity drawn from the grid, the BESS will save its customers US$2.3 million over 12 years.

Reducing the peaks up to 70 times per year through its agreement with ENGIE, the system will reduce transmission network charges and regional capacity costs that the cooperative is liable for, while the project is also expected to give NHEC experience and insight into how best to use battery storage technologies. Housed in a 40-ft container, the battery system includes onsite fire suppression equipment and will be monitored 24/7.

“Energy storage is a rapidly evolving technology that has a key place in our strategic vision for our business model of the future. It’s important for NHEC to gain firsthand experience with batteries so we can better understand the benefits they have to offer our members and the operation of our system,” NHEC president and CEO Steve Camerino said.

“As more Co-op members install their own batteries, NHEC needs to be ready to support them with a flexible, responsive grid.”

According to solar price comparison and information website EnergySage, New Hampshire’s incentive programme situation is similar to Rhode Island’s, with no statewide incentives in place and a ConnectedSolutions programme run by utility Eversource for commercial customers and a residential storage leasing pilot programme run by Liberty Utilities the only current options.

New Hampshire Public Utilities did however begin a proceeding late last year to investigate the role energy storage projects of all technology types could play from both system benefit and energy market participation perspectives.

Cover Image: The battery system at the site of electric cooperative NHEC's 2MW solar array in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. Image: ENGIE North America. 

Stay up to date with the latest news, analysis and opinions. Sign up here to the Energy-Storage.news Newsletter.