December 21, 2015

Energy Storage Brings Resiliency to Eugene, OR

By Todd Olinsky-Paul

This week, Oregon became the latest state to fund an energy storage demonstration project that will use batteries and PV to power a resilient microgrid. In a joint solicitation with US Department of Energy, the Oregon Department of Energy announced it would award $295,000 in state and federal funds to the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) for an islandable system that will provide clean, resilient power to three critical facilities: EWEB’s Roosevelt Operation center, Blanton Heights Communications center, and the Willamette 800 Pump Station. The project will combine 500 kW of electric energy storage with solar PV in a microgrid configuration that will provide electricity, water and communications services to customers in case of a grid outage, along with other benefits (such as grid services and renewables integration) during normal operations.

The project is one in a series of joint federal/state demonstration projects brokered by CESA’s Energy Storage Technology Advancement Partnership (ESTAP), a program funded by US DOE Office of Electricity and administered through a contract with Sandia National Laboratories. The ESTAP program previously supported the solar+storage microgrid constructed by Green Mountain Power in Rutland, VT, again with joint funding from US DOE-OE and the Vermont Department of Public Service.  That project was commissioned this year and is generating significant cost savings as well as providing resilient backup power to a nearby public school that serves as an emergency shelter for the community.

Dr. Imre Gyuk, manager of US DOE-OE’s energy storage program, has said of the Oregon grant, “This important project addresses the energy-water nexus by providing emergency backup for both…. It assures reliability by including renewable PV as well as energy storage across three aggregated sites.”

For states and municipalities, the resiliency benefits of energy storage are becoming more important, as extreme weather increases and grid outages become both more frequent and more severe. Just a few years ago, energy storage was seen almost exclusively as a way to integrate variable renewable generation onto the grid. But a series of events has changed this view: Sandy, Irene, and other storms on the east coast, drought and wildfires in the west, the discovery of a looming earthquake known as the Cascadia Subduction in the Pacific Northwest, ice storms and derechos and flooding – the list goes on. Suddenly, providing resilient power to critical facilities has become a high priority, and batteries, in conjunction with solar PV, are becoming the go-to technology to achieve this. Resiliency, therefore, was a high priority for ODOE when it launched its storage solicitation.

But as important as resilient power may be, it is equally important that batteries can provide valuable services during normal operations, when the grid is up and running. This means that economic optimization is a critical part of system design. Technical support from Sandia National Laboratories will help to ensure that the Oregon demonstration project will be both technically and economically optimized; and data from project operations, collected and analyzed by Sandia, will yield important information that will inform the next generation of energy storage projects in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.

It is heartening to know that energy storage is no longer the sole province of economic powerhouse states like California and New York. With creativity, courage and a collaborative spirit, smaller states with more modest resources are carving out leadership roles in the energy storage revolution.

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