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ConEd’s Energy Storage Program Will Allow Renewables to Offset Nuclear

RP Siegel | Friday March 7th, 2014 | 5 Comments

tmp_ConEd581758375 Nuclear power has long been controversial in this country, due to concerns about safety. Those concerns were exacerbated after the Fukushima disaster, whose impacts are still not fully understood. A lot of attention has been focused on the Indian Point nuclear plant, in Buchanan N.Y., on the east bank of the Hudson River, just 38 miles from New York City. The license for Unit 2 actually expired last September, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would like the plant closed. But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is evaluating it for a possible 20-year extension.

In the meantime, Con Edison of New York, commonly known as ConEd, and the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), have developed a program to reduce demand, which would help reduce the need for generating capacity, making the prospect of eliminating the plant more feasible.

The program, which is called the Indian Point Energy Center Energy Efficiency, Demand Reduction and Combined Heat and Power Implementation Plan, is looking to cut out 125MW of demand through the three types of measures named in the title.
Following in the footsteps of the California Public Utility Commission, which recently set ambitious targets for energy storage capacity as a means of leveling out demand, this new plan will also invest heavily in storage.

The plan will provide an additional $2,000 per kW of stored energy on top of the $600 per kW currently offered by NYSERDA. By lowering demand using energy storage, Con Edison is eliminating the need to replace the Indian Point nuclear plant, which just had one of its two remaining reactors shut down in January due to a low water level.

I asked ConEd about the project and received the following responses from Colin Smart, section manager of commercial customer solutions.

TriplePundit: What is the storage capacity goal?

Colin Smart: We’re looking to reduce demand by 100 MW through Energy Efficiency (“EE”) and Demand Reduction (“DR”), and 25 MW through Combined Heat and Power (“CHP”).

3p: What kinds of energy storage technologies are eligible?

CS: Many technologies that will help permanently reduce peak demand will be eligible for incentives. For energy storage, we have incentives for thermal and battery storage.

3p: What kinds of submissions are you seeing?

CS: While details of the program have not been announced, the early reaction from customers and technology developers has been encouraging.

3p: What led you to decide to subsidize storage at this level?

CS: We tried to develop an incentive schedule that balanced demand reduction with our belief in creating opportunities for new technologies. Energy storage technologies continue to develop and provide opportunities for customers. Thermal storage projects have been deployed at a number of New York City buildings and provide a positive impact on customers peak demand profiles. Batteries continue to emerge as an option and we are pleased to see the FDNY include a broader array of battery technologies in its new code. We recognize that the storage technologies face economic hurdles for deployment. But we hope this program will help create an environment for wider deployment, eventually resulting in improved, self-sustaining economics.

3p: How will this ultimately benefit ConEd?

CS: We believe it is important to help our customers better manage their demand and by doing so they can reduce costs for themselves and Con Edison. Con Edison operates one of the most complex electric distribution systems in the world, and our engineers are enthusiastic about understanding and supporting new technologies that can help customers. We believe that technologies such as energy storage will allow for more innovative design and operation of our system, while allowing us to remain the most reliable system in the country. This will result in a strong future for Con Edison and continued excellent service for our customers.

The impacts of incentives

I also sought out representatives of companies with technologies eligible for incentives under the program. Mark MacCracken, is the CEO of CALMAC and former chair of the U.S. Green Building Council. CALMAC makes thermal energy storage systems that primarily help reduce air conditioning loads by making ice at night and then using that ice to provide cooling during peak hours.

“The Con Ed program correctly focuses on the real electrical energy problem we have in this country which is how and when we use our power. With our national utility load factor now under 50 percent we have twice as much generating capacity as we need if we use electricity at a level rate day and night. Con Edison’s program specifically attacks the peak demand problem.”

“Now,” continued MacCracken, “buildings in NYC that install energy storage technologies, like CALMAC’s IceBank for example (already installed in many iconic NY buildings like Rockefeller, the Bank of America Tower and 55 Water St), will have it paid off in just 3 years, instead of the usual 7-year payback. That is a huge incentive.”

On the battery side, there is Eos Energy Storage, who just announced that they will be integrating Ideal Power’s 30 kW battery converter technology to be integrated with its Aurora energy storage system. The system will be connected to the grid and deployed by Con Edison in a New York City pilot project in the second quarter of 2014.

The Aurora system employs Eos’s safe, low-cost zinc hybrid cathode (ZnythTM) battery technology and is designed to enhance renewable energy generation, increase the grid’s efficiency and resiliency, and reduce utilities’ costs and consumers’ electricity bills. The compact modular design of both the battery pack and power converter is uniquely suited for office buildings and facilities with space-constrained environments.

Michael Oster, CEO of Eos Energy Storage had the following comment:

“We have successfully tested Ideal Power’s 30kW battery converter with our Aurora system to demonstrate bi-directional AC power flow and have been very pleased with the results. Based on this performance, Eos has selected Ideal Power for the multi-kW scale distributed energy storage system to be installed at a Con Edison site.”

“We are pleased to support the innovative work by Eos and to be selected for the pilot project with Con Ed. This represents an opportunity to demonstrate our complementary technologies and to create a best-in-class AC-integrated energy storage system,” said Dan Brdar, chairman and CEO of Ideal Power.

Ideal Power’s 30 kW battery converter offers high efficiency in a compact, modular and easy-to-install solution that can improve the economics for energy storage applications. It is based on the company’s patented Power Packet Switching Architecture (PPSA) that provides electrical isolation without the use of a bulky and expensive transformer. Among the many benefits of PPSA is the unique capability to reduce the size, cost and efficiency loss associated with conventional systems.

As the world is adapting to the realities of the day, which acknowledge the many benefits of renewable sources of energy, the need for effective energy storage solutions has been recognized and responded to. Ultimately, the approaches being pursued in this program: efficiency, storage, and demand management will be far less expensive per kW, cleaner, and safer than the construction and maintenance of new facilities.

RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.

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  • karl W

    RP, when referencing renewable’s in the title are you referring to ice and battery storage?

    • RPSiegel

      No, Karl. These storage technologies enhance the use of renewables like solar and wind that are not inherently self-storing.

  • Dave shires

    Very good stuff. Regardless of nuclear, reducing demand is exactly what we need. However, I’d rather see this reduce demand at a coal plant. Nuclear may be controversial but I’m with James lovelock on it – we’re still going to need it and it’s vastly cleaner than coal or gas.

    • RPSiegel

      Thanks Dave. We can only reduce demand from the whole grid, since it’s all connected. However, we can reduce or add supply from any given source, which it what will happen if Indian Point remains shut down. I happen to believe we can meet demand w/o nukes by 2050 based on Amory Lovins’ analysis in Reinventing Fire.

  • Peter

    What about costs. If I wanted to replace a 300mW gas turbine that is used 4 hours on summer evenings with solar and battery storage, whats the cost of the gas turbine and the cost of solar and the cost of the storage, How much space to I need for the solar and for the battery storage?