Sterling, Massachusetts Breaks Ground on a Resilient Energy Storage System

Author: Todd Olinsky-Paul, Clean Energy Group | Projects: Clean Energy States Alliance, Resilient Power Project

Photo provided by Roger Lin, NEC Energy Solutions. Reprinted with permission. The town of Sterling, Massachusetts celebrated its Municipal Light Department’s new energy storage system with a groundbreaking ceremony this week. The occasion is literally groundbreaking, not just for the town or the state, but for New England. The project is the first utility-scale energy storage facility in Massachusetts and will be the largest battery installation of its kind in New England, in terms of megawatt hours.

The 2-megawatt, 3.9 megawatt-hour battery storage system, to be installed at the Sterling Municipal Light Department’s Chocksett Road Substation, is one of a number of similar projects funded under the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources’ Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative, which awards grants for clean, resilient energy systems to support critical infrastructure during grid outages. During a power outage, the Sterling energy storage system will be able to “island” from the grid and, with the support of existing solar generation, provide up to 12 days of backup power to the town’s police station and dispatch center, a critical facility providing first responder services.

But there’s more to it than that. As important as it is to provide clean, resilient power to essential community facilities such as the Sterling police station, it is equally important to show that energy storage is an economical way to do this. For this reason, the project received additional funding from U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity (DOE-OE), under its energy storage demonstration program. A key feature of the project, which DOE-OE and Sandia National Laboratories are supporting, is to demonstrate and analyze the economic case for the batteries.

By discharging the batteries during hours of peak electricity demand, Sterling will be able to significantly reduce its costs for electricity capacity and transmission services. These are monthly and annual fees the utility pays to ISO New England, the regional independent grid operator, and they make up a large and growing portion of the cost of doing business as a utility in the region. Sandia has calculated that through peak shaving and other cost saving uses of the batteries, Sterling should be able to pay off its new energy storage system in fewer than seven years. Thereafter, additional cost savings should lower rates for Sterling’s ratepayers.

The Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA), working with Sandia and DOE-OE, has supported two utility-scale energy storage projects demonstrating this economic model in ISO New England. The first, the Stafford Hills project with Green Mountain Power in Rutland, Vermont, is up and running. The Sterling Municipal Light project should be fully installed and commissioned by the end of this year. Together, these two projects should effectively demonstrate a business case that can be replicated by numerous other utilities in New England.

The implications of these energy storage projects are far-reaching. By helping to control region-wide demand peaks, such systems will benefit not only the utilities that built them and their local ratepayers, but ratepayers throughout the region. As indicated by the recently released Massachusetts energy storage study, State of Charge, storage is an important technology to achieve many important goals, such as the integration of more renewables on the grid, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and control of peak demand spikes, which can reduce the need to build new gas peaker plants.

The project is being led by Sterling Municipal Light Department, with batteries supplied by NEC Energy Solutions, a locally based company with headquarters in Westborough, MA. Project funding included a $1.46M grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, under the leadership of Commissioner Judith Judson, with additional financial and technical assistance from the DOE-OE under the direction of Dr. Imre Gyuk, and Sandia under the leadership of Dan Borneo. Additional technical support was provided by CESA through its Energy Storage Technology Advancement Partnership (ESTAP), and by Clean Energy Group’s Resilient Power Project through a generous grant from Barr Foundation.

CESA will host a free webinar on the Sterling energy storage project on Tuesday, October 25, 2016. Guest speakers will review the project implementation process, the battery storage technology, the project’s economic analysis, timeline, and more. There will also be ample time for questions and answers. For more information on this free webinar and to register, visit

Learn more about this project at:


This blog was also posted on Renewable Energy World.

With Steel in the Water, All Eyes Now Turned to the US Offshore Wind Market

Author: Valerie Stori, Clean Energy Group | Project: Offshore Wind Accelerator Project

Block Island Wind Farm. Photo by Val Stori. Over 400 developers, marine industries, state and federal agency representatives, environmental advocates, state representatives, and manufacturing and supply chain companies gathered in Newport, Rhode Island earlier this week at the International Partners Forum hosted by the Business Network for Offshore Wind and the Maine Ocean and Wind Industry Initiative. Keynote panelists at the Forum echoed the energy and excitement in the hotel ballroom—the US offshore wind (OSW) industry is off the ground and, with several states moving forward with favorable policies, looking toward a promising future.

Massachusetts has helped lay the groundwork for moving the US offshore wind industry from infancy. New Massachusetts’ legislation requiring utilities to enter into power purchase agreements for offshore wind power was enacted this summer. New York, which has long been regarded as a promising market, has released an Offshore Wind Blueprint in advance of its Offshore Wind Master Plan—a New York state roadmap on how to develop OSW to meet the state’s Clean Energy Standard mandate. Anthony Fiore from the NY Mayor’s Office of Sustainability announced that the City is interested in being an OSW power off-taker and encouraged BOEM to identify more wind energy areas. The City has adopted an 80% by 2050 renewable energy goal. In addition, there was much discussion in Forum sessions of the updated National Offshore Wind Strategy last month, which the US Department of Energy and Department of Interior released last month and which identifies policy actions for streamlining the development of 86GW by 2050.

The west coast is also considering offshore wind. Walt Musial, Principal Engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), presented NREL cost-modeling data for floating OSW and spoke on OSW’s value proposition for the US Pacific coast—the OSW resource lines up very well with the evening peak ramp-up period and is complementary to solar. Karen Douglas, Commissioner for the California Clean Energy Commission, spoke of the opportunities and challenges for offshore wind at the closing plenary session. Commissioner Douglas explained that California has vast experience managing high penetration of renewable energy, including siting, permitting, and transmission planning—all the state’s experience with landscape-scale planning well positions the state for developing offshore wind at the scale needed to meet California’s aggressive climate and energy goals. Furthermore, the state has numerous retiring coastline power plants and the transmission infrastructure in place to support OSW. If deep-water technical risks, costs, and permitting challenges can be overcome, construction and operation could begin by 2030.

In addition to the federal and state updates, the IPF offered a large number of sessions covering a wide variety of topics. Session topics covered technical issues, finance challenges, navigation risks and planning, R&D, supply chain innovation, risk management tools, infrastructure planning, and more. The US DOE facilitated a panel session on its three advanced demonstration project awards; Fishermen’s Energy, the University of Maine, and the Lake Erie Energy Development Co. (LEEDCo) updated the audience on the advances each has made in developing innovative OSW foundation designs and their next steps towards project deployment.

Over the three-day conference, panelists reiterated the importance of driving down costs. Cost reductions are an absolute necessity for driving the offshore wind industry forward. Cost reductions can be made all along the supply chain, but construction risks must be minimized and market demand must be visible. Supportive state and federal regulations and strong renewable energy markets are also key to driving down costs and attracting investors. Cost reductions are the central theme to NYSERDA’s multi-state roadmap initiative for offshore wind, said Doreen Harris, Program Manager for Large-scale Renewables at NYSERDA. NYSERDA is participating in an effort with Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine to identify actions states could take individually and collaboratively to get offshore wind to scale at reduced cost. A strategy is expected to be released by mid-2017. You can keep updated on the multi-state initiative at