National Grid on The Most Important Clean Energy Technology

How Battery Storage Will Empower Energy Customers
Apr 4, 2017 9:00 AM ET

The following article is taken from “The Most Important Clean Energy Technology” chapter of Dean Seavers’ Democratization of Energy eBook.

As I talk to experts inside and outside of National Grid about the developments that will shape our industry in the coming years, one technology always stands out: energy storage. Batteries have more potential to accelerate the transformation to a clean energy supply chain than almost any other innovation.

Why would National Grid, a utility that’s operated traditionally for so many years, want to promote battery storage?

Because it’s a game changer for our customers, large and small.

Picture a graph showing the amount of energy generated by a solar array over the course of a typical afternoon here in the Northeast. Rightly imagine the jagged line, with peaks and valleys every time a cloud passes over.

Now picture the same graph for the energy you use at home. It’s a smooth, rolling line that heightens hours after the solar array’s high point.

These graphs are clearly mismatched, and they reveal that by not closely tracking generation to customer demand, the solar array isn’t helping you much. Say we broaden the scope to look at an entire community. A utility like National Grid still needs to build enough infrastructure to hit the top of that rolling hill of demand. And the intermittency of solar power means we have to generate as much power as we did before the array was built, because we can’t rely on the consistency of sunny days.

Now, what if we could store up all the power generated by the solar panels and then release it in a way that matches the demand? Or, better still, save it until tomorrow when rain is in the forecast? Suddenly the solar panels become exponentially more valuable. Thanks to energy storage, they’ve become as reliable as a traditional on-demand power plant (albeit at a much smaller scale).

Battery technology has a ways to go before this picture becomes a reality, and we’re working to speed up the process. Here’s a glimpse of the future: In Massachusetts, we’re building three energy storage projects using two different technologies – “flow” batteries and lithium-ion.

Worcester’s Holy Name High School is home to a 600 kW wind turbine. Soon it will also host a 500 kW flow battery. This battery would be able to power an average residential home for about six months on a single charge. And on a windy night, instead of electricity generated by the turbine going to waste as the students are home in bed, it can charge a battery for use the next school day.

Two of our large-scale solar installations will also be home to energy storage technologies. Our solar array in Everett will host another 500 kW flow battery. And at our installation in Shirley, we’re experimenting with something else entirely: a 500 kW, lithium-ion battery, the same technology you’d find in a Tesla, but more than 10 times the size. 

The Northeastern states, and the state of California, are leading the nation in progressive legislation to promote clean energy. Still, resources like scattershot solar installations have diminishing returns. We need to pair distributed energy sources like solar and wind with battery storage. Storage enables more solar and wind without adversely impacting the operation of the grid, transitioning these clean energy resources from cool tech to valuable long-term assets for all: the democratization of energy in its most basic sense. Resiliency. Lower demand. Affordability. Fewer infrastructure projects. Benefits to customers throughout the network. 


About the Author

Dean Seavers joined National Grid in December 2014 as President of National Grid in the U.S.

Dean’s long career has included leadership roles at GE, United Technologies, and Tyco. He led GE Security, a $2 billion product and technology group, and he also led a $4 billion global services portfolio for United Technologies.

At Red Hawk Fire & Security, Dean’s most recent venture, he was a founder and served as President and CEO. Red Hawk quickly became the second largest independent fire and security platform in the U.S., providing integrated security solutions to large and mid-sized commercial customers.

Dean has a strong background in financial strategy, performance improvement, and operational leadership. At National Grid, his focus is on continuing the performance progress that underpins the company’s U.S. business while driving its Connect21 agenda of building the advanced natural gas and electricity networks that are the foundation of our 21st century digital economy.

A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Dean graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business from Kent State University and earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Dean and his family have a home in Boston.

For more information please visit our website:, or our Connecting website. You can also follow us on Twitter, watch us on YouTube, Friend us on Facebook and find our photos on Instagram