POWERGEN, for me, looks and sounds a little different this year. It wasn’t that long ago that I was escaping the early grip of a New England winter to find warmth in New Orleans for POWERGEN 2019. 2020 circumstances being what they are, I took advantage of the POWERGEN+ series and sat in on the session called, “Building an Energy Storage Ecosystem”. 

The session was hosted by Jay Dauenhauer of Energy Cast and had a panel consisting of Erik Steimle – VP at Rye Development, Kurt Waldner – PM & Strategic Marketing at GE, Salvatore Minopoli – VP at Highview Power and Ken-Ichi Hino – Director, Energy Storage at Geronimo Energy. It served as an excellent resource to see where we are when it comes to energy storage, what the current need is and what the future holds. Erik Steimle says, “Capacity challenges in California are a new reality for every major utility on the West Coast.” Hino added, “Utilities are being a lot more specific with their needs for storage. It allows us to shortcut and pinpoint what our customers are looking for.”

Batteries are often the first place your mind goes when talking about storing energy. Kurt Waldner of GE was asked if battery storage is a better generation asset or transmission asset, he replied, “Batteries made sense in the past to rate stack different services. If you recognize that you can do peak transmission and deferral at the same time, you’d see more penetration of transmission. Right now, It’s about 90-95% being used mainly for generation.” 

What works best for you, depends on your situation. Dauenhauer asked the panel, “What’s the most reliable method of energy storage in terms of efficiency and power density?” Hino answered, “It depends on what you’re trying to do and how long you’re trying to do it.” He continued, “It’s not any one answer, at least 4-5 different problems are being solved by energy storage, there are many different metrics.” Minopoli added, “If you’re looking for a solution that requires less than 4 hours, you have to look at lithium ion.”

There are about 3.5 million river miles stretching through the United States, there’s a ton of potential flowing there. Pumped-storage opens the door for energy from other renewable sources to be saved for periods of peak demand.  Rye Development is a developer of low impact hydropower energy generation and storage. Their VP, Erik Steimle says, “There are opportunities for new hydro-pumped storage in the United States but there are geographic constraints.” According to the National Hydropower Association, there are 80,000 dams in the United States, only 3% (2,400) of them produce electricity. It may sound surprising but it’s important to remember that most dams were originally built for flood control and shipping purposes.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency defines long-duration energy storage as systems that can discharge for 10 hours or more at their rated power. Highview Power develops and provides a long duration energy storage solution called liquid air energy storage. They say the process is based on the principle of air liquefaction. Salvatore Minopoli, Highview’s VP, was asked if they’ve been able to make utilities feel comfortable with something that’s non-traditional. He replied, “We don’t view lithium ion as our competition. Lithium ion can’t really do that long duration stuff. Many progressive utilities are looking for long duration products, we can put our technology anywhere in as little as 2 years. We’re changing the status quo in our industry.”

Minopoli is looking to the future, “There’s no going back, the train has left the station for renewables. Renewables are taking off but in order to make it happen, you need storage. There is plenty of technology suitable for whatever your situation is. Dominion was predominantly fossil but look at them now, they want to introduce any product that’s renewable into the portfolio.” Kurt Waldner of GE says, “You’re seeing second tier markets come on. You’re seeing everyone putting their clean standards out there and there’s an increase coming from all continents. Storage is an opportunity to modulate supply where it needs to go.”

As always, we’re looking forward to working with the innovators that help build and shape our world. See you at the next conference.

-Sean Parker

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