The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) has won a $600,000 grant to fund a pilot project that would be the first utility scale battery energy storage device on the utility’s system.
The grant, from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, included matching funds from OPPD. Together, those funds are being used to build an approximately 1 megawatt (MW) battery at an OPPD substation.
The aim of the pilot project is to test how battery storage can be integrated into OPPD’s grid to provide load relief and voltage support at the substation level.
“This is a very big deal and the grant helps us accelerate our utility scale storage efforts,” Michal Lisowyj, alternative energy specialist at OPPD, said in an article in The Wire, OPPD’s newsletter. “We want to understand how various use cases and recurring cycling degrades the battery, much like a cell phone battery that doesn’t hold the same charge over time.”
OPPD said the battery would be small enough to fit in a storage container, enabling the public power utility to perform research that could be beneficial for its operations and customers, as well as for other utilities in Nebraska.
In addition, OPPD says the research gleaned in the pilot project will help it understand the procurement, construction, and operations of small energy-storage applications and how to scale for potential future applications.
“Given changes to OPPD’s generation mix – adding more variable renewable resources and retiring conventional resources – and grid operations, we see energy storage as a valuable technology in the future,” Courtney Kennedy, manager of alternative energy programs at OPPD, said via email.
“As costs come down, policies are being developed, and technology is evolving. We see now as the right time to test out the technology on a smaller scale to understand its opportunities and challenges to integrating it in our operations.”
For the past 10 years, OPPD has been growing its renewable energy portfolio, which has been primarily wind generation with smaller amounts of landfill gas, community solar, and hydroelectric power.
The public power utility is in the process of adding between 400 MW and 600 MW of solar power and natural gas backup to meet load growth and maintain system resiliency.
OPPD has set of goal of having net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and is studying several initiatives to meet that target.
Nebraska Environmental Trust is funded by Nebraska Lottery proceeds. The organization says it has awarded more than $320 million in conservation projects in the state since 1994.
NPPD solar project tied to storage
Another public power utility, Nebraska Public Power District, has also been pursuing energy storage.
In 2019, the City Council for Norfolk, Neb., approved an agreement for the state’s largest community solar project with NPPD that will be tied to a battery energy storage system (BESS) demonstration project expected to be in operation by mid-2020.
APPA storage tracker
The American Public Power Association recently launched a Public Power Energy Tracker, which is a resource for association members that summarizes energy storage projects undertaken by members that are currently online.
The tracker is available here.