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Pa. Forms Consortium to Increase Energy Storage

An energy storage consortium is being formed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to help lead the advancement of energy storage in order to make the state’s electric grid more resilient and low-carbon.

A virtual stakeholder meeting for those interested in being part of the consortium has been set for 1 p.m. Sept. 28 and registration is open. The meeting is the next step after the DEP released its Energy Storage Assessment, which looked at the present amount of energy storage in the state, the barriers to adding more storage, and the opportunities that could result from doing so.

The report recommended significantly increasing capacity by pairing increased solar energy projects with storage to reduce fossil fuel use and make sure the grid has sufficient power available when needed.

“Pennsylvania’s climate continues to get warmer, and we’ve already started seeing the impacts, with increasing swings in temperature and extreme weather,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell in a press release. “Solar-plus-storage can help in two ways: It can help slow down climate change by incorporating more clean, renewable energy into Pennsylvanians’ daily electricity use, and it can also make the grid more reliable during extreme weather events, better protecting Pennsylvanians’ health and safety as well as critical facilities.”

The report explains that the electric grid uses energy instantly as it is generated, with little capacity to store any excess. At times of high demand, such as late afternoon, additional coal- or gas-fired turbines or plants are often fired up to meet the need, resulting in additional greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to move to a lower-carbon electric grid, the increased use of renewable energy sources and more energy storage are needed.

There are currently about 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of storage capacity available in the state from 22 energy storage projects that are in operation or have been announced. They include pumped hydro storage (1.07 GW), lithium-ion batteries (18 MW), lead-carbon batteries (12.5 MW), and ice and chilled water storage (6 MW).

The assessment recommends pairing grid-scale solar arrays with battery storage, which would reduce CO2 emissions and increase grid resilience. To spur this development, it recommends a state energy storage capacity target, which seven other states have done.

The assessment used looked at development of utility-scale solar with storage, and stand-alone energy storage systems that provide customers with direct savings. The solar-plus-storage option was determined to have potential for “significant economic and environmental savings.” About $65 million of public investment to add energy storage could leverage private investment and result in about $545 million annually in grid and environmental benefits, the assessment found. It also recommends establishing a storage procurement target and supporting research and development efforts to improve storage technologies.

Fourteen other measures to foster energy storage investment and integration were also included as recommendations, including convening a statewide storage issues forum, designating public funding to accelerate storage deployment, establishing incentive programs for storage projects, and accelerating microgrid deployment at critical facilities.

As the move to renewable forms of energy continues to gain speed, it is important for all stakeholders to be involved in planning for the future so that transition is well-accepted, economically feasible, and provides additional resilience and security for the electric grid.

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