Their flexibility helps adapt to ever-evolving technology

Oped by NM State Rep. Debra Sarinana, Abbas Akhil, former State Rep., Retired engineer Sandia National Laboratories, and Jim Desjardins, Exe. Director , Renewable energy Industries Association

First published in the Albuquerque Journal

January 8, 2022

The Dec. 24 Albuquerque Journal article on PNM’s proposed large-scale battery projects shows how important the role of storage is to New Mexico’s clean-energy future. Though large-scale storage plays a role in this future, an approach that encourages smaller scale distributed storage would provide much-needed economic and reliability benefits to the electric grid.

There are at least four advantages to adding smaller scale storage in communities, including:

■ Locating smaller storage at substations, businesses or homes ensures that storage is closest to the electric load when it is needed as a backup resource. A large facility, which could be miles away from where power is needed, does not meet that need. It is similar to having a fire station that is located some miles away compared to a neighborhood fire station that can respond more quickly to an emergency.

■ Placing large storage in one location creates a single point of failure, possibly resulting in the stored electricity being unavailable. Smaller energy storage systems in dispersed locations will result in electricity being available, even if there is a fault at one or more location. The city of Albuquerque needs to make this kind of resiliency a priority, ensuring that there will be power in an emergency.

■ Building one large facility requires significant upfront financial investment. Building smaller energy-storage facilities spread over three or more years requires smaller investments, which adapt to prevailing economic conditions. Traditional ideas of the economies of scale of building large systems are no longer applicable. The advantages of building small is superior in a new-energy world that features various locally based renewable energy resources. In an era of global supply chain constraints, acquiring smaller quantities of materials is more feasible than acquiring large quantities.

■ Energy storage technology is evolving at a fast pace and better systems will be available in the future. Making a single large investment in one type of battery technology

today locks in its performance capability for the next 20 or more years. Acquiring smaller units over time not only captures the improved operational benefits of newer technology, but also provides an opportunity to collect operational data and quantify the benefits over a wider operating timeline.

We need to be flexible as we transition rapidly to a clean-energy economy. In these uncertain economic times and a fast-changing technology environment, the city of Albuquerque and PNM would be better served by revisiting these energy storage projects and considering the technical and economic feasibility of a distributed approach. We look forward to continuing discussions on promoting the role of small-scale storage in our state at the upcoming New Mexico legislative session.