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New York is ‘getting rules right for solar and storage together’

The CUNY project is intended to "help capture for the first time the full spectrum of value streams for solar systems with battery storage". Image: Flickr user: William Warby.
A New York-based project proving the ability of solar paired with storage to provide power in the event of natural disasters and other causes of grid outages is now underway at City University of New York (CUNY).  

John Cerveny of New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY BEST), which is described as part development advisory, part trade advocacy group, told PV Tech Storage that groups collaborating on the NYSolar Smart Distributed Generation (DG) Hub – Resilient Solar Project, have begun their meetings in the past few weeks.

The three-year project is designed to demonstrate how the pairing of solar and storage can give communities a more resilient energy supply. It was first unveiled in January, following the award of US Department of Energy (DoE) funding to a number of projects across the US, under the umbrella of the Solar Market Pathways programme to advance solar deployment.

“A lot of this is the sort of getting the rules right for solar and storage together and then building a roadmap and actually even a website where you could show the places that need resilient power the most,” Cerveny said.

“So where the grid is weak or where you anticipate in a storm it’s likely the power would go out there, so that people can then, in addition to what the grid needs, come up with a rating based on how important resilience is there and then understand the additional value for the resilient type of system.”

Storage at residential and commercial scales in particular is being sold in the US based on its ability to provide backup power. One well known example, especially for New York residents, where this could have made a crucial difference was the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm which in 2012 caused power to be lost in some parts of the state for a month.

CUNY is working with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), Meister Consulting and a number of other partners which include First Solar, utility Con Edison and the steering advisory committee which includes NY BEST.

As Cerveny implied, the project will feed into a technology roadmap and will also allow analysis of resiliency to be added to a ‘solar calculator’, a public resource which allows New York residents to calculate the value of installing solar. The project, CUNY said in a release, will “create a pathway to integrating resilient PV systems into the NYC infrastructure”.

Resiliency of power supply is seen as a strong driver for storage in North America. Image: SAFT.
By the third year of the project, CUNY said, the roadmap will be made public, as will the interactive map charting resiliency assessments and “will help capture for the first time the full spectrum of value streams for solar systems with battery storage”. CUNY went on to say that solar remains an underutilised resource in New York, “due to multiple barriers to adding storage capability”.

Talking about his work on the project, which so far has consisted of involvement in fortnightly telephone meetings along with his colleague, Bill Acker, John Cerveny said he had been struck by the parallels between storage and the early days of solar deployment. According to Cerveny, some of the groundwork storage needs to really get moving has already been laid by the PV industry.

“It’s actually pretty interesting to see the parallels with the deployment of solar and now we see the deployment of storage with solar, and [also] just storage on its own. But it’s an unknown technology, it’s unfamiliar, there’s all these questions about how to install it.

“It feels a lot like a lot of the things PV faced getting into the market and getting acceptance, [that] is right where we are with storage. It also feels like we can shorten the learning curve because it’s been done with one set of technologies and now it’s another [technology] set to layer into that. It’s a nice tie-in.”

At a somewhat higher level, New York is also enacting its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) programme, a wide-ranging reassessment of the state’s energy networks and its economic modelling. The REV programme, to which NY BEST is also providing input, looks at who owns what in New York’s energy infrastructure network and among its generation assets, including storage systems, working out for example how storage providers can get paid for the value their systems bring.

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