Battery power is becoming part of New England’s electric grid

  • The Merrimack Station power plant in Bow is seen at dusk on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 2/11/2021 5:00:05 PM

A hint of the future of the electricity grid can be seen in the latest auction to ensure that New England has enough electricity three years from now: It includes 630 megawatts of battery storage.

The capacity auction is run every year by ISO-New England, which oversees the six state power grid, to ensure that there will be enough electricity production three years down the road. This week’s auction is for 2024-2025.

Information was released Thursday about the auction as a whole but information won’t be available for another week or two about which specific power plants submitted winning bids. Capacity payments can be a big factor in deciding whether some plants stay open, especially older, higher-cost power plants like Merrimack Station in Bow, which will soon be the last coal-fired electricity generator in New England.

 The winning price for most of Northern New England including most of New Hampshire was $2.48 per kilowatt-month, roughly the same as last year. Prices were higher in the southern half of New England, a function of much greater electricity demand in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The auction set 34,621 megawatts available in 2024-2025, almost all of it from large power plants, especially those burning natural gas or nuclear fuel. A megawatt or MW is enough electricity to power between 700 and 1,000 homes in New England.

About 10% of the total, 3,891 MW, went to methods of reducing the need for electricity at certain times rather than producing more of it. Most reduction comes from energy efficiency and demand response, in which large power users such as industries agree to cut back during high-load times such as hot summer months, but distributed energy in the form of rooftop solar is also included, and battery storage is starting to be part of the picture.

Batteries don’t produce power but can shift the time of day when it enters the grid, filling up when power is cheap and releasing electricity when power is needed or is expensive. They are needed to help the grid cope with increasing amount of solar and wind power but current markets were not designed with them in mind, which has stymied their adoption is some areas.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.) 

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