- Agilitas Energy has announced plans to install a 3 MW/9 MWh battery energy storage project for the Pascoag Utility District in Rhode Island, replacing a more costly transmission line reconstruction project.
- The lithium-ion battery, set to be commercially operable by the second quarter of 2022, will be used for peak shaving during summer months. In other times, the battery will be used to provide ancillary service to ISO-New England.
- According to Mike Kirkwood, general manager of the Pascoag Utility District, installing the battery will cost $1.4 million, compared to transmission line repairs that would have cost between $6 million and $12 million. "Storage really became the most cost-beneficial solution to what could have been a costly problem," Kirkwood said.
The district, which serves about 4,800 customers, is largely powered by two feeder lines connected to National Grid. However, in recent years, those lines have reached their thermal limit during summer peaks, leaving the potential of a load shut down, Kirkwood said. An analysis by National Grid found that wire repairs would be a multi-million dollar investment, but also identified a "non-wires alternative" involving new storage capacity.
"Battery storage for this problem isn't something we would have even contemplated five years ago," Kirkwood said. "Now it's considered a pretty reliable part of the portfolio. I think this happened at the right place at the right time."
Energy storage backers have worked to position the industry as a tool for transmission and distribution, not just as a storage solution. Storage-as-transmission could function as a tool to absorb electricity or supply more to the grid, becoming a useful supplement or alternative to transmission infrastructure.
Growth, however, has been slow, in large part because some regional transmission organizations and independent system operators have not recognized storage as a transmission tool. A 2017 policy statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said that electric storage could provide services and recover costs through cost-based and market-based rates, potentially opening up dual-use storage for wholesale markets; the 2018 Order 841 to promote storage development has also prompted some rules changes to make storage a transmission asset. According to the Energy Storage Association, a handful of storage-as-transmission projects have been adopted in the U.S., including a 2020 agreement from PG&E in the collaborative Oakland Clean Energy Initiative that will see two storage projects replace fossil generation and traditional transmission lines.
Barrett Bilotta, president of Agilitas Energy, said the option to defer costly infrastructure spending has been a "big driver" for utilities to look at storage as a demand reduction option.
"This conversation is a new one for a lot of utilities. The technology is new … and we're at the cutting edge of deploying some of these systems," Bilotta said. "We answer a lot of questions about how to take full advantage of the capital equipment we'll be installing and how the actual problem will be fixed."
Agilitas has a similar arrangement under development with Consolidated Edison for a project in Long Island City that will offer demand reduction and operate within the New York ISO market. Bilotta said the company is also talking to other municipal utilities in the Northeast to build similar projects and is now constructing 40 MW of solar and more than 70 MWh of storage in Massachusetts and New York.
For Pascoag, the storage project also represents a step toward a more sustainable grid. Rhode Island has a goal of meeting 100% of its electricity demand with renewables by 2030, including installation of more storage (the state announced a $1.5 million pilot incentive program for storage paired with solar in October 2020). According to Kirkwood, Pascoag currently meets nearly half of its demand from carbon-free sources and is contracting for more solar supply.