Transmission and valuation the major challenges to energy storage deployments in US today


Adapting transmission infrastructure and accurately valuing energy storage are the major challenges to deployments in the US today, said panellists on the Keynote discussion at Energy Storage Summit USA today.

The two-day event opened with a positive Keynote talk about the bright future of energy storage, from Andy Berke, administrator of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), discussing the benefits and drivers of storage today.

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The following opening panel session ‘What is Currently the Biggest Barrier to Deploying Energy Storage in the US?’ then brought the tough realities of the sector’s expansion back to the fore.

Energy transmission infrastructure is the biggest barrier to storage deployments according to Ken Webre, COO of solar and storage EPC solutions firm SunGrid. “It’s growing 2% and storage is growing 100 times that,” he said.

That was concurred by Aubrey Johnson, VP for System Planning & Competitive Transmission, at grid operator MISO, and Erika Bierschbach, VP of Energy Market Operations & Resource Planning at utility Austin Energy.

MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) is responsible for overseeing the electrical grid and associated wholesale markets across 15 US states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.

Batteries can help mitigate some of the issues around bringing new resources but they do add load too, which is a challenge, Johnson added. MISO has around 600MW of storage across its system today, and 32GW standalone and 15/16GW of co-located storage in its interconnection queue, he said.

Kevin Lynn, Director of Grid Modernization, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office at the US Department of Energy, said that making sure all stakeholders recognised the full suite of services that storage can provide is a challenge.

Later in the discussion Bierschbach then said it was hard to justify the cost of battery storage given the value it is providing right now. This is particularly true for smaller projects distributed across its network, she added, and particularly when thinking about long-term value, considering how quickly the sector is evolving.

Regarding value, it will be more and more determined by location-specific benefits, and the timeshifting, capacity and transmission infrastructure investment deferral storage provides, said Will McNamara, Senior Policy Analyst for Energy Storage at Sandia National Laboratories.

The concept of standardisation came up a few times. However, standardisation does not mean one solution fits all, but is more about consistency about how we value storage and around policy, said McNamara. Using the example of mandated energy storage procurement targets, he pointed out that not all states needed to use this route.

The panel was moderated by Helen Kou, Senior Associate, Energy Storage, BloombergNEF.’ publisher Solar Media is hosting the 5th Energy Storage Summit USA, 28-29 March 2023 in Austin, Texas. Featuring a packed programme of panels, presentations and fireside chats from industry leaders focusing on accelerating the market for energy storage across the country. For more information, go to the website.

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