Should YOU be in the energy storage business?

By Jesse Berst

Quick Take: As I’ve explained in my articles about the danger of disintermediation, I am concerned that utilities are ceding too much territory to other companies. They are letting other companies install and manage solar PV; other companies install and manage microgrids; other companies manage energy efficiency and demand response programs. That’s why I was glad to hear of a co-op that is partnering on energy storage rather than letting somebody else do it.

A Montana electric cooperative is helping a commercial customer test energy storage by installing a large battery at co-op headquarters. According to Electric Co-op Today, Flathead Electric Cooperative sees the tests as an economic development project. And as a way to research battery storage for use at other sites. The co-op will house battery storage that will provide 25 kw of power for use during peak pricing periods.

The customer, Zinc Air Inc., hopes to install banks of these units at commercial wind farms. “This could be particularly important in the Northwest where we have abundant hydroelectric power and a developing wind energy industry,” said Ken Sugden, general manager of Kalispell-based Flathead EC. “In the spring, we get an oversupply of hydroelectric power and wind operators have to shut down some turbines because there is not enough demand to handle the load.”

From our reports store: “Smart Grid Business 2012 to 2017,” published by Memoori, analyzes the smart grid market’s size, technologies, finance and needed investments, demand forecasts and more.

The battery systems could cut down the need to shut down wind farms when hydro is running at high levels and heavy spillway discharges might threaten endangered fish. The technology could also be installed by industrial customers, allowing them store less expensive energy overnight and use it to during expensive peak periods.

Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry’s oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.

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