Store wind, solar energy in batteries? CU now can do that

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City Utilities now has the ability to store electricity from renewable wind, solar and hydroelectric sources — as well as from coal — thanks to a $1 million battery bank
Wes Johnson/News-LeaderBuy PhotoCity Utilities in partnership with NorthStar Battery installed 6,840 battery cells into the new Battery Energy Storage System at Cox Substation to provide 1 megawatt of battery power.(Photo: Nathan Papes/News-Leader)Buy PhotoCity Utilities now has the ability to store electricity from renewable wind, solar and hydroelectric sources — as well as from coal — thanks to a $1 million battery bank that was dedicated Thursday on the city’s south side.CU split the cost of the Battery Energy Storage System at Cox Substation with NorthStar Battery, which has a large battery manufacturing plant in Springfield.According to CU, it allows the use of renewable energy to charge the batteries during off-peak times and then discharge at times of peak demand. CU says it’s the first system of its kind in the Midwest.The system uses 1,140 briefcase-size batteries connected in a way to store 1 megawatt hour of electricity, according to Frank Fleming, NorthStar’s senior technical adviser. In a pinch, the system can deliver 2.5 megawatt hours of electricity over a shorter time period.Buy PhotoScott Miller, the general manager of City Utilities, speaks at a dedication of its new Battery Energy Storage System at Cox Substation with NorthStar Battery on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. (Photo: Nathan Papes/News-Leader)”In 2017, we estimate that we’re going to deliver over 35 percent of the energy to this community from renewable energy, and that’s a huge transition from 1970, and really from a decade ago,” said Scott Miller, CU’s general manager.Having the ability to store that power for when it’s needed could be a huge advance for the utility, he said.”It’s a research project that, if successful, we can show that battery storage can be economic in the central part of the United States, that could really help us with all of our wind renewable sources that are out there,” Miller told a crowd of about 100 at the dedication.”If successful, this project will allow us to take those intermittent renewable energy sources and incorporate those, not only in City Utilities, but also across the United States’ electric grid.”Buy PhotoCity Utilities in partnership with NorthStar Battery installed 6,840 battery cells into the new Battery Energy Storage System at Cox Substation to provide 1 megawatt of battery power. (Photo: Nathan Papes/News-Leader)The batteries are contained in two long steel buildings at the Cox substation, 4300 S. Cox Road. Miller said the lead-acid batteries are significantly less expensive than lithium ion batteries. Part of the Cox Energy Storage System project will focus on how cost-effective the battery system is.Buy PhotoFrank Fleming, senior technical adviser for Northstar Battery, speaks at a dedication of City Utilities’ new Battery Energy Storage System at Cox Substation on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. (Photo: Nathan Papes/News-Leader)Each battery contains a smart chip that monitors how it’s doing and how efficiently it’s delivering electricity to CU’s electric grid. The battery system is monitored and operated remotely.”We first want to prove it works and that it’s economic for our customers,” Miller said.  “What better place to do this than right on the edge of the wind belt?”

Wes Johnson

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