DEP Report Assesses Pennsylvania’s Energy Storage Capacity, Recommends Solar-Plus-Storage

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HARRISBURG, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) this week released a report that assesses energy storage capacity statewide and recommends significantly increasing it by pairing solar energy with storage for a cleaner, more resilient electric grid. The report identifies policies, programs, and incentives that decision-makers can pursue to add energy storage technologies to the state energy portfolio.

“Pennsylvania’s climate continues to get warmer, and we’ve already started seeing the impacts, with increasing swings in temperature and extreme weather,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Solar-plus-storage can help in two ways: It can help slow down climate change by incorporating more clean into Pennsylvanians’ daily electricity use, and it can also make the grid more reliable during extreme weather events, better protecting Pennsylvanians’ health and safety as well as critical facilities.”

The electric grid uses energy instantly as it’s generated, with little capacity to store. At times of high demand, such as late afternoon, peaker power plants are often used to provide extra electricity. These plants often have very high carbon emissions rates, and many are located in or near Environmental Justice areas.

The DEP Energy Programs Office commissioned Pennsylvania Energy Storage Assessment: Status, Barriers, and Opportunities from Strategen Consulting to determine the best path forward to increasing energy storage statewide.

There are currently about 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of energy storage capacity in the state. This represents 22 operational or announced energy storage projects, including traditional pumped hydro storage facilities (1.07 GW), lithium-ion batteries (18 megawatts; MW), lead-carbon batteries (12.5 MW), ice and chilled water thermal storage (6 MW), and other technologies providing smaller amounts.

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The report recommends pairing grid-scale solar arrays with battery storage to help reduce carbon emissions and increase grid resilience. One way to catalyze this would be to set a state energy storage capacity target, as seven other states have done.

For example, to get 10 percent of electricity from solar energy, the DEP Pennsylvania’s Solar Future Plan recommends increasing in-state solar energy from about 700 MW today to 11 GW by 2030. If 25 percent of this solar target were paired with a target of 1.5 GW of battery storage, Pennsylvania energy customers could save $273 million annually in wholesale energy costs and avoided public health and environmental impacts from a reduction of 2.5 million metric tons of carbon emissions a year.

The Pennsylvania Energy Storage Assessment recommends 14 other measures to foster energy storage investment and integration, including convening a statewide storage issues forum, designating public funding to accelerate storage deployment, establishing incentive programs for storage projects, and accelerating microgrid deployment at critical facilities.

“This look at our current and potential statewide energy storage capacity provides leaders in the utility, government, industry, academia, and other sectors with information to make proactive decisions to protect Pennsylvania from the worst impacts of a changing climate,” said Secretary McDonnell.

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“Interest has steadily increased in rooftop solar and other distributed solar energy systems in the past decade, but as we move to make real progress in addressing climate change, we need to also move proactively and thoughtfully in the direction of grid-scale solar and storage.”

As of February, there were 64 solar-plus-storage projects, totaling more than 2.3 GW, in the Pennsylvania portion of the planning queue of PJM, the wholesale electric regional transmission organization serving all or part of 14 states. While these projects are still in early planning and approval stages and not yet announced, the trend reflects growing recognition of the value of solar-plus-storage.

Pennsylvania workers and companies are developing energy storage equipment in Pennsylvania today. For example, Arkema, in King of Prussia, was awarded $5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop lithium-ion energy storage manufacturing processes. East Penn Manufacturing, in Lyon Station, recycles over 30,000 batteries a day. Eos Energy Storage, in partnership with Holtec International, is producing aqueous zinc batteries for industrial-scale energy storage in Pittsburgh.

Several entities are doing research and development, including the Penn State University Battery and Energy Storage Technology Center and the University of Pittsburgh Energy GRID Institute.

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The assessment report recommends supporting R&D by institutions and businesses in state to innovate energy storage technologies that can incorporate commonly found elements and environmentally friendly design and be made in Pennsylvania.

Governor Wolf announced in March that starting in January 2023, state government will get 50 percent of its electricity from seven new grid-scale solar arrays to be built in Pennsylvania. This is the largest government solar commitment in the United States and joins projects by the City of Philadelphia, Geisinger Health System, Penn State University, and others to pursue clean renewable solar energy in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Energy Storage Assessment was federally funded by the U.S. Department of Energy State Energy Program.

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