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Energy Storage: What’s in Store for New Jersey?

BPU chief: Ability to store energy is ‘critical for our future’ as examination of state’s energy-storage needs and opportunities gets underway

ACUA battery storage system
ACUA's battery-storage system was the first to be financed in part through the state’s Clean Energy program.

The state is looking to get a better handle on how it should go about achieving aggressive goals to use energy storage systems in New Jersey, a technology crucial to the policy of transitioning to cleaner sources of energy.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities this week awarded a $300,000 contract to Rutgers University to do a comprehensive analysis of the state’s energy-storage needs and opportunities.

The study, mandated under a sweeping clean-energy law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in May, is expected to detail and quantify the potential benefits and costs associated with increasing energy storage and distributed energy resources — which generate power from more localized sources such as solar systems and smaller power plants — in New Jersey.

By 2021, the law directs the state to develop 600 megawatts of energy storage systems, and 2,000 megawatts by 2030, among the most ambitious such targets in the nation. Few commercial energy storage systems have been deployed in New Jersey, although the industry is growing rapidly.

Storing the energy produced by solar and wind facilities is deemed crucial to meeting the administration’s goal of having 100-percent clean energy in New Jersey by 2050. Energy storage not only makes those sources more reliable, but could end up saving consumers money by reducing the need for conventional power plants, according to advocates.

“The ability to store energy is critical for our future and for accomplishing Gov. Murphy’s ambitious clean energy goals for New Jersey,’’ said BPU president Joseph Fiordaliso. “Energy storage systems will provide emergency back-up to power essential services, offsetting peak loads, and stabilizes the electric distribution system, which ultimately benefits ratepayers.’’

Mixed results so far

In New Jersey, the agency’s efforts to promote energy storage have been mixed. The BPU gave out $3 million in grants to 13 projects but most of those never were built, caught up in a regulatory dispute with the regional operator of the power grid, PJM Interconnection.

There is growing interest in the technology, however. Last month, Public Service Electric and Gas, the state’s largest utility, filed a petition with the BPU to invest $180 million over the next six years to build 35 megawatts of energy storage systems.

Earlier this year, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority broke ground on a battery-storage system for solar arrays and wind turbines at its wastewater-treatment plant in the city.

The $300,000 Rutgers analysis also will consider whether implementation of renewable energy storage systems would promote the use of electric vehicles, and its potential impact on renewable energy production.

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