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20-megawatt battery facility planned in Stillwater

20-megawatt battery facility planned in Stillwater

Project expected to be largest utility-scale energy storage facility in state so far
20-megawatt battery facility planned in Stillwater
Photographer: Shutterstock

STILLWATER — A 20 megawatt bank of batteries to stabilize the power grid is planned for construction near the GlobalFoundries computer chip factory.

The developers believe their roughly $9 million project will be the largest installation of lithium-ion batteries for utility-scale power storage in New York, and one of the first big steps toward the state’s goal of 1,500 megawatts of storage capacity installed by the year 2025.

The Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, the designated economic development agency in the county, announced the plan Thursday. It will be the first project undertaken by Key Capture Energy, an Albany-based startup with several other proposals in earlier stages of development.

Chief Development Officer Dan Fitzgerald said the facility will be sited at the New York State Electric & Gas substation off Cold Springs Road. It will be obscured from public view by an earthen berm and vegetation, but will be unremarkable in its appearance: a series of metal boxes the size of shipping containers in a gravel yard surrounded by a fence.

The batteries will be silent, but the heating/cooling units attached to keep them operating in all seasons will make noise expected to be minimal by 310 feet away, the nearest point of public access.

Inside will be technology that had been needed for decades but became more sophisticated and less expensive only in recent years.

“Now we’re finally there where it’s all coming together,” Fitzgerald said.

He said that supply and demand within the power grid can become unbalanced, resulting in slightly too much or too little power available. A fossil fuel-burning power plant needs time to increase or decrease output, while a stored-power facility can absorb or provide electricity much more quickly, he said. The Cold Springs Road installation, dubbed KCE NY1, will be able to start recharging or discharging its batteries in less than a second.

“We’ll leave it probably half-charged,” Fitzgerald said, so that it can go either way.

The New York Independent System Operator, which is responsible for operating the power grid in New York, will pay Key Capture for the service provided by the facility.

Fitzgerald said power storage is increasingly important as more electricity is generated from inconsistent sources such as sunlight and wind. Homes and businesses still need electricity at night or on cloudy days, when solar panels are providing little or no power; likewise, homes and businesses don’t need all the electricity generated by wind turbines on a breezy night, when most people are asleep. Storage units can store the surplus or ease the deficit.

However, KCE NY1 is being designed mainly to assure quality of electricity, rather than quantity, Fitzgerald said. It will serve to keep the current in the lines flowing as close as possible to the 60 hertz standard of alternating current. The chance of damage to everything from refrigerators to factory equipment increases above or below 60 hertz, he said.

State officials have said the 1,500-megawatt stored-energy goal is likely to be met mainly through lithium-ion battery installations. There is an existing 20 megawatt flywheel installation in Rensselaer County, and a few pumped hydropower facilities in New York that store huge quantities of potential electricity. But neither of those technologies is expected to see a significant increase in deployment, nor are technologies such as stored heat, fuel cells and compressed air.

Fitzgerald said the cost and time frame of KCE NY1 should be clearer within a month, after supply and construction agreements are reached. Which manufacturer’s batteries will be used and what company will do the installation have not been finalized, but the project is expected to cost roughly $9 million.

The Saratoga Prosperity Partnership negotiated sales, property and mortgage tax abatements for the project totaling $649,963 with the Mechanicville-Stillwater Industrial Development Agency. It said the project was eligible to be exempt from property taxes but will make $160,000 in payments in lieu of taxes.

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