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Utilities, others launch Community Storage Initiative

From the April 27, 2016 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published April 26, 2016

By Jeannine Anderson
News Editor

The American Public Power Association and the public power utilities in Marquette, Michigan and Wellesley, Massachusetts, are among the early participants in the Community Storage Initiative, an effort by electric utilities, environmental groups and manufacturers to promote energy storage technologies in communities across the country.

The Wellesley Municipal Light Plant is considering an energy storage project of up to 2 megawatts and the Marquette Board of Light and Power, which has a community solar project, wants to keep track of what is happening with storage, officials with the municipal utilities told the American Public Power Association on April 26.

On April 25, the Community Storage Initiative announced the support of the industry and environmental groups, including the nation’s three electric utility trade associations and more than a dozen individual utilities.

APPA is among the initiative’s charter sponsors, along with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Edison Electric Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Peak Load Management Alliance. The initiative will be chaired by Gary Connett, director of member services at Great River Energy, a generation and transmission cooperative based in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

“Community storage refers to a spectrum of utility-sponsored programs that aggregate electric storage resources available throughout the community, such as water heaters and electric vehicles, to improve the efficiency of electric energy services for consumers,” the initiative said in an April 25 news release. “Community storage programs offer the industry practical steps to rapidly increase the amount of energy storage available, and also integrate more renewable resources.”

A list of supporters, along with brief descriptions of their community storage efforts, is available on the initiative’s website. The storage programs the supporters are working on include grid-interactive water heating, electric vehicle charging, grid-interactive space heating, ice storage technology, and residential battery storage.

Interested people and organizations can sign up for the group’s email list or can join the list of supporters.

Wellesley considers storage, microgrid projects

The Wellesley Municipal Light Plant is thinking about an energy storage project of between 1 MW and 2 MW, said utility Assistant Superintendent Kevin Sullivan in an April 26 interview with APPA.

“We want to cut capacity costs,” Sullivan said, but the utility has not yet determined whether a storage project makes sense from a cost-benefit point of view.

Sullivan said he has spoken with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, or DOER, which is considering presenting a grant for energy storage under the state’s Energy Storage Initiative.

Another grant opportunity, for microgrid projects, may be coming from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Sullivan said. Wellesley is interested in creating a microgrid, as well as an energy storage project, he said. In the event of a big storm such as Superstorm Sandy — or any type of disaster causing loss of electric service — a microgrid could be useful in providing energy to places such as gas stations, banks and places to eat, he said.

A storage project of 1 MW would provide four hours of emergency power, while a 2-MW project would provide 8 hours of power, he said.

Marquette: Storage is ‘next logical step’

“Community storage will allow for more integration of intermittent renewable resources,” notes the Marquette Board of Light and Power on the Community Storage Initiative’s website.

The Marquette utility has an electric vehicle, has launched a community solar project, and is very interested in energy storage, although it does not yet have a storage project, said David Lynch, the utility’s assistant director for utility operations, in an April 26 interview with APPA. Now that the utility has the community solar project, storage “would be the next logical step,” he said.

“We like to keep our eyes on what’s going on with storage,” Lynch said.

Environmental groups, manufacturers back initiative

In addition to the NRDC, other environmental and efficiency advocacy groups that are supporting the initiative include the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Vermont Energy Investment Corp.

Manufacturers that are supporting the initiative include GARN, Ice Energy, Power Over Time, Steffes Corp., Vaughn Thermal Corp. and Sunnovations Inc.

Individual utilities supporting the initiative, in addition to the public power utilities in Marquette and Wellesley, are: Central Electric Cooperative of Pennsylvania, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Duke Energy, Federated Rural Electric, Great River Energy, Green Mountain Power, Horry Electric Cooperative, Inc., Itasca-Mantrap Electric Cooperative, Jackson EMC, McLeod Cooperative Power Association, Minnesota Rural Electric Association, North Itasca Electric Cooperative Inc., Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Oconto Electric Cooperative, Palmetto Electric Cooperative, South Central Electric Association, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, and the South Central Electric Association.

Research conducted by The Brattle Group and sponsored by the Community Storage Initiative’s founding members “recognized that the nation’s 50 million residential electric water heaters collectively represent a significant and vastly underutilized energy storage resource capable of leveraging substantial environmental and cost benefits,” the initiative said in the news release. A recent article in Public Utility Fortnightly explained the community storage concept.


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