Grid Scale, Microgrids, Solar, Storage

US State Breaks Ground on a “Perfect” Solar + Storage Microgrid that Can Provide Resilient Power

Today Green Mountain Power (GMP) broke ground on a solar plus energy storage microgrid in Rutland, Vermont with one expert calling it a “perfect” project. The 2.5-MW Stafford Hill solar project is being developed in conjunction with Dynapower and GroSolar and includes 4 MW of battery storage, both lithium ion and lead acid, to integrate the solar generation into the local grid, and to provide resilient power in case of a grid outage.

The companies said that this project is one of the first solar-only microgrids in the nation, and the first to provide full back-up to an emergency shelter on the distribution network. “Solar power and battery storage will provide clean reliable power to a school that serves as an emergency shelter, helping a community cope with loss of power in a future disaster,” said Lewis Milford, president of Clean Energy Group, which manages the Clean Energy States Alliance. 

Green Mountain Power has set a goal of making Rutland, VT the solar capital of New England and this project, which is also being developed on a brownfield site thereby revitalizing a depressed area, will help it meet that goal.

“This project is a national model for the future of clean energy – combining solar with energy storage,” said Dr. Imre Gyuk (pictured in hat at podium), Energy Storage Program Manager in the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery. “This project provides resilient power during emergencies while benefitting the grid at other times. The technical innovations will reduce cost and make the project commercially viable…. This is the perfect project! It has social value, technical innovation, and furthers renewable integration for the grid.”

Gyuk, who said he was in “an excellent mood” after the groundbreaking event on Tuesday, continued: “This project has everything and in particular, it has total buy-in [from federal, state, and local government agencies as well as industry and the utility].” 

Gyuk said the the cost recovery for this project will come largely through services to the grid. “During non-emergency periods, [the energy storage] is simply there to make the grid smoother,” he said. Gyuk is particularly interested in how utilities will value grid resiliency and said that this project will help further that discussion. “Emergency services are more difficult to monitize,” he explained. 

In terms of the value of energy storage, “frequency regulation has now become a commerially viable business,” said Gyuk. This isn’t only because it has been demonstrated to work technically but also because FERC realized the value of doing it fast and with clean energy, he said. Gyuk estimates that frequency regulation with energy storage is valued a roughly twice what frequency regulation is when it’s done with fossil fuels. 

The energy storage component of this project is co-funded by a federal-state-NGO partnership involving the State of Vermont; the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity; and the Energy Storage Technology Advancement Partnership (ESTAP), a project managed by Clean Energy States Alliance and Sandia National Laboratories.

GMP said that the project puts Vermont in the forefront of the new movement toward microgrids, energy storage, and grid modernization. Solar + storage and microgrid technologies are poised to revolutionize resilient power, bringing clean, locally-generated power to communities all over the world. These systems can keep critical facilities, such as emergency shelters, firehouses and fueling stations, operating when the grid goes down.

There is a great need for such resilient power solutions, as shown by recent disasters like Hurricane Sandy, which affected the entire eastern seaboard and left millions without electrical service.  With this project, Vermont takes a giant step toward addressing this need, as well as meeting Vermont’s clean energy and emissions reduction goals. 

The $10 million project is expected to be up and running by December 2014. 

Lead image: Vermont Flag via Shutterstock.

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Image below shows map of the proposed site. Credit: GMP.