There is expected to be state funding ahead for the development of energy storage facilities like the one the Tupper Lake Electric Department and others have been studying this past year.
At February's village board meeting Electric Superintendent Marc Staves said there has been an announcement from the Governor's office and from the New York State Energy Research Authority that money will be made available for these energy storage facilities to be built.
“If we find out through our study that a facility would be worth it to us, there'll be money to get it implemented,” he told the village leaders that evening.
Last year Mr. Staves and his counterpart from the Lake Placid Municipal Electric Department, Kimball Daby, began discussions with the Adirondack North Country Association's Nancy Bernstein and Professor Tom Ortmeyer of Clarkson to begin preparations to launch a feasibility study of energy storage in the two municipal electric systems.
The study is seen by the four proponents as the first step in determining whether storing power during low-use times of the day in the course of a year can shave peak demand periods and loads in times of high electrical consumption like winter.
In both municipally-owned electric systems, when heating and other costs in winter exceed their hydro-power allocations, the departments are required to buy more expensive coal- and nuclear-generated powers. The systems and their ratepayers pay the price for the expensive power. Tupper Lake receives bout 19 megawatts of hydro-generated electricity, which runs about four cents per kilowatt hour, before it has to buy the more expensive varieties which can run 14 cents per kw. In Lake Placid, the hydro-allocation is about 29 megawatts per month.
At a meeting of the four last year Mr. Staves speculated that storing electricity with large batteries could be “a no wires” solution to staying under the 19-megawatt mark and thereby reduce costs here.
Professor Ortmeyer of Clarkson's electric engineering department is something of a battery expert. Another battery expert who recently joined the college's faculty is expected to help with the project.
He said that “battery technology” is advancing rapidly and the costs of acquiring the large units are coming down.
Ms. Bernstein, who is ANCA's energy specialist, said these large batteries now come encased in large shipping containers for placement next to substations, like the village's on McLaughlin Ave.
Kimball Daby is aware of at least one electric facility in the region which successfully employs batteries to keep its costs down. Solar power is also used there to help charge the two megawatt systems of batteries.
One of the things the study will look at for the two communities is the feasibility of installing solar fields on “Brownfield sites” or polluted tracts in each town, which can't be used for much else, Mr. Staves told the Free Press this week.
In many places the electricity stored in large batteries is used to cut power needed from the grid during day-light hours when system-wide consumption is typically higher and then the batteries are re-charged overnight when energy consumption in a system is usually lower.
How much can new batteries on the market store?
“That's the purpose of the study,” noted the professor in an earlier interview. He also said the study would, among other things, determine the years of payback on the purchase of any giant batteries.
NYSEDRA's reviewed the study group's preliminary information in a submittal in February, 2018 and invited it to complete and submit a feasibility study by late June, which it did.
“There's a lot of interest in New York State in promoting energy storage,” according to Ms. Bernstein.
The local group received “the go ahead” late last year and “the kick off meeting” occurred last week, Mr. Staves said this week.
The work ahead now is for the two municipal electric departments to furnish its billing and use data to Professor Ortmeyer and perhaps one of his engineering students who will be formulating the data and plugging it into various formulas.
Mr. Staves said there will be various energy-saving options explored in Prof. Ortmeyer's computations in the months ahead.
“If the study finds its feasible” and practical to use batteries to shave peaks of usage and save the system and its customers money then the village board will make the decision to install the battery system, he explained.
The forthcoming funding he spoke of a the February 20 meeting would help the village system buy and install the large batteries.
The new study should also show that if battery storage works well here, it should work in other electric systems, according to the professor.
At the first meeting here last year Mr. Staves said Tupper Lake derives 80% of its electricity from “green sources.” Any new battery storage system would increase that percentage.
The cost of the new study which just began will likely run about $75,000 and 25% of that will come from Clarkson to advance its knowledge and curriculum about high voltage electric systems, Professor Ortmeyer said in the interview last year.