Investing in long duration energy storage could take Virginia’s energy transition to new peaks

Anyone familiar with renewable energy is also familiar with one of its main criticisms – its “intermittency,” or the fact that solar panels and wind turbines don’t generate electricity if the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. Energy storage solutions can help to mitigate that intermittency by collecting electricity generated in the sunniest or windiest part of the day and discharging it when needed.  

Currently, most energy storage systems use lithium-ion batteries that can provide around 2-6 hours of energy. This is known as short duration energy storage. However, there are other battery chemistries and mechanical storage solutions that can store 8-10 or even 100+ hours of energy, known as long duration energy storage (LDES). This inter-day or intra-day storage can go a long way to smoothing out the peaks and valleys created by intermittent renewable generation, especially in the most extreme conditions like heat waves and winter storms.  

In early June, C2ES convened a group of stakeholders from across Virginia for a regional roundtable on long duration energy storage. The conversation highlighted opportunities for LDES to play a role in the energy transition in Virginia, and paired LDES companies and experts with policymakers and community representatives interested in learning more about the unique aspects of the technology. 

Following the conversation, Dominion Energy hosted our group at their Dry Bridge Battery Energy Storage Facility in Henrico County, VA — a 20-MW/80-MWh lithium-ion battery installation that provides energy storage benefits to the grid. 

Several key themes emerged from the conversation: 

LDES can bolster clean energy deployment in Virginia.  

Energy demand in Virginia is projected to grow rapidly in the coming decades, driven in large part by a boom of data centers in Northern Virginia. At the same time, the state is working to decarbonize its grid by bringing online significantly more renewable energy capacity, such as offshore wind. Deploying LDES can help utilize these new generation resources to their fullest potential by addressing the intermittency of renewable energy. 

We need to do more to educate policymakers, companies, and the general public about LDES.  

While some people are already familiar with short duration energy storage, fewer are familiar with LDES and the nuances of the opportunities, available technologies, and potential physical impacts it could bring. Roundtable participants noted that early discussions have been helpful, but that there is far more work to do as part of a comprehensive and sustained effort to educate industry representatives, communities, and policymakers at all levels about the specifics of LDES. 

Policymakers, regulators, and developers need to differentiate clearly between short duration and long duration energy storage. 

Current regulatory and market environments don’t account for the benefits of deploying LDES to the grid, and Virginia’s  3.1 GW energy storage procurement requirement—the largest of any state besides New York—doesn’t specify the type of storage required. This means developers aren’t compensated for the full value of LDES projects, making them harder to deploy. Attributes like bolstering grid reliability and supporting resource adequacy need to be factored into energy markets and incentive structures to better demonstrate the real-world benefits of LDES in economic calculations. 

By proactively educating policymakers and communities, LDES developers can help decision makers, from permitting councils to zoning boards, better understand the unique use cases, opportunities, and potential impacts of LDES projects. More educated decisionmakers can ask better questions and make more informed decisions about potential projects. 

Developers should authentically and transparently engage communities from the earliest possible phase of the project.  

Authentic, comprehensive, and transparent community engagement emerged as a key topic at our LDES roundtable in Richmond, and as a theme among our regional roundtable series. In Virginia, as in many other places around the country, some communities are pushing back against new clean energy developments they believe will harm their local ecosystems, viewsheds, or economies. If LDES developers work alongside communities, and are responsive to their needs and concerns, they may be able to avoid some of the community opposition other technologies are facing. 

We look forward to continuing the conversation on long duration energy storage, both through the policy brief we will develop following this roundtable and through our national level Technology Working Group.