Four Key Takeaways from Midwestern Leaders' Dialogue on Energy Storage & Grid Modernization

Author(s):

In March, I wrote a blog post describing why so many energy stakeholders are now interested in energy storage and how that interest is beginning to develop into tangible deployments of storage resources across the country.

Partnering with the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA), we recently helped facilitate this national conversation with a bit of a local, Midwestern flavor through a series of online and in-person engagement events. Together with MGA, we kicked off the series with four webinars that focused on a broad range of storage-related topics and technologies. The series culminated in a two-day in-person meeting that engaged Midwestern utilities, regulators, and other stakeholders in a deep conversation on the benefits and challenges of integrating energy storage into the Midwestern grid, and how to best forge ahead to make progress.

The meeting, which was held on the campus of Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, was an opportunity to soak up the collective knowledge of nation-leading experts on energy storage, and have a productive dialogue on how to utilize storage technologies to meet system needs unique to the Midwest. Speakers led participants through a deep discussion of market, policy, and regulatory actions that can be taken to develop a storage industry tailored to the Midwest. Here are just some of the national experts that spoke at the event:

·       Dr. Imre Gyuk of the U.S. Department of Energy

·       Dr. Massoud Amin of the University of Minnesota

·       Jacquie DeRosa from Customized Energy Solutions

·       Jeff Bladen of Midcontinent Independent System Operator

·       Jason Burwen of the Energy Storage Association

·       Commissioner Angela Weber of the Indian Utility Regulatory Commission

Key Takeaways:

As always with a meeting such as this one that brings unique perspectives together, there are a few key takeaways that participants leave with that can guide their work over the next months and years. Here are a few from our team here at GPI:

1.     There is increasing interest in almost every sector in figuring out how to make battery storage projects more possible in the Midwest. States like California and New York have the upper hand right now because of higher wholesale and retail prices, challenges in managing high renewable penetration, and unique policy drivers. It was clear after several of the presentations that policy makers and regulators, including legislators, need more information on storage technologies and the potential benefits to the transmission grid and distribution system storage can provide.

2.     Companies like IPL are taking the lead on grid modernization efforts and looking at the increasing levels of solar on the distribution system as opportunities for battery storage projects and grid modernization. Joe Bentley from IPL explained the view of the future from the perspective of IPL and its parent company AES, and how they are planning with new technologies and software to help implement that vision.

3.     There is a great deal of interest in keeping up with battery storage projects and how they are operating in the California Independent System Operator region and other places including the deployments on the distribution grid in California. The Great Plains Institute plans on keeping in touch with interested stakeholders, U.S. DOE and EPRI to keep ourselves and stakeholders in the loop on relevant developments.

4.      Some consensus developed toward the end of the discussion that distribution utilities need real projects to get experience running emerging technologies on the new distribution grid, which has increasing penetrations of solar and other distributed energy resources. Jeff Bladen of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) also indicated that hands-on experience is an essential part of bringing new technologies into the MISO markets as well.

The full agenda for the meeting, along with supplemental material presented by the esteemed speakers is available here.

 

Site tour of new, large-scale battery project

As part of the in-person meeting, participants experienced what a brand new, large-scale battery storage project looks and feels like on a tour of Indianapolis Power & Light’s (IPL) Harding Street Station Battery Energy Storage System. For further exaggeration of just how different battery storage is from other grid technologies, the folks at IPL then took us over to their natural gas plant which consisted of five older coal units ranging in age from 1913 to the 1950’s which were converted to natural gas several years ago. A hearty thank you goes out to all the plant operators and engineers at IPL who took time out of their extremely busy schedules to show our group through a plant that is now integrating several generations of technology and still manages to run reliably.

We would like to thank all of those who attended and participated in the site tour and meeting, enriching the conversation well beyond our expectations. And we would like to extend a thank you to our colleagues at the Midwestern Governors’ Association who brought it all together.

If you would like to learn more about energy storage and the opportunities it presents, come join us later this summer at the upcoming Energy Storage North America conference on August 8-10 in San Diego!