Ah, Vermont: Beautiful Forests, Maple Syrup, Tesla Powerwall…and Other Quick Microgrid News

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"Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail Swanton Vermont" by Elliot Rosewater

“Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail Swanton Vermont”.                 Credit: Elliot Rosewater

Ah, Vermont: beautiful forests, maple syrup… and Tesla Powerwall batteries. Vermont utility Green Mountain Power (GMP) is partnering with Tesla to help its customers generate and store energy a little closer to home, while also reducing peak demand on its grid system. The result will be a more reliable, sustainable and cost-effective system for all, according to the utility.

The Tesla Powerwall is the kind of product expected to be used in residential microgrids. It can be paired with small-scale solar such as rooftop panels to store locally generated energy. Or it can be used without solar as a battery to store power from the grid. During a storm or emergency, the battery is able to power essential parts of the home like lights, a refrigerator, and furnace.

GMP will partner with customers to utilize the Tesla Powerwalls during peak energy times to directly lower costs for customers by reducing transmission and capacity costs. Vermonters have the option to purchase the Tesla Powerwall battery outright or lease with no upfront cost.

“GMP has made it so easy for Vermonters to access this cutting edge technology,” said Abby Brodowski, who lives in Rutland and recently had her home transformed into an eHome working with GMP to make it more efficient and comfortable. The Brodowskis added weatherization, LED lights, solar panels, a heat pump and a heat pump water heater. “We are really looking forward to getting our Powerwall installed because it will help with reliability and also because it is exciting to be part of leading the way in the country on energy innovation in the home.”

Where do I sign? GMP outlined to the Vermont Public Service Board its plan to offer three options to customers who want the Powerwall. Customers who share access of the battery will pay about $37.50 a month with no upfront cost, which equals $1.25 a day. Customers can also choose to purchase the Powerwall for about $6,500, share access with GMP, and get a monthly bill credit of $31.76, which represents the value of leveraging the battery to help lower peak energy costs. And Vermonters can buy the Powerwall outright from GMP with no shared access for about $6500.

“This is community energy at the most local level, helping to increase resiliency for customers while we lower costs through innovations like battery storage,” said Powell. “This ties into our eHome and eBiz program, as we work with Vermonters to accelerate the adoption of energy transformations in homes and businesses that are cost effective, use dramatically less energy and can operate more independently of the grid.”

GMP expects to receive its first shipment in January, with a total of 500 arriving over the next few months. GMP will partner with 10 customers initially to pilot the technology, primarily in Rutland, the Energy City of the Future, and then make the Powerwall available statewide to all GMP customers.

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As distributed energy resource (DER) technologies — like distributed renewables, fuel cells, generator sets, solar PV, distributed energy storage systems, EV charging and microgrids — decline in cost and become more readily available, they are having a significant impact on the power and utilities sector. According to the DER Global Forecast report from Navigant Research, annual installed capacity across the global DER market is expected to grow from 136.4 GW in 2015 to 530.7 GW in 2024, representing $1.9 trillion in cumulative investment over the next 10 years. While deployments do vary from region to region, this rapid expansion will force a major shift away from the centralized, one-way electrical grid that has been the norm for the past century, in favor of more advanced technologies like solar PV, generator sets (gensets), energy storage and microgrids, according to Navigant.

What is driving DER growth? Navigant identifies technology advances, business model innovation, changing regulations and sustainability concerns, to name a few. These technologies are diverse, and they are many. Integrating them means creating a more efficient, resilient, cost-effective and sustainable electricity grid. And what’s to become of the traditional grid? According to Navigant, in many markets today, DER deployments are challenging incumbent grid operating models, requiring a more dynamic network with advanced communications and orchestration to ensure stability, efficiency, and equality.

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Anchors away… from the main grid. The Department of the Navy (DON) announced it will partner with Arizona electric utility APS, through a 30-year lease, to develop a low-emission microgrid network at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma. Located at the base’s existing substation, the microgrid will be able to generate 25 MW of electricity and provide 100 percent of the back-up power the base needs in the event of a grid disruption.

During normal grid operating conditions, the microgrid will provide peak power to APS customers in the Yuma area, perhaps at a lower cost. In the event of a grid outage, the microgrid will provide power to MCAS Yuma through a direct connection to the base’s infrastructure, creating a backup generation facility.

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The project marks a significant step toward energy security and resilience for the Department of Defense and the DON. APS expects to break ground on the project early next year and bring the facility on line by the end of Q2 2016.

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As the market for lithium Ion (li-ion) batteries for electric vehicles continues to develop, LG Chem, Panasonic and Samsung SDI have emerged as leaders of the (li-ion-battery) pack.

“Most new-production strong hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and all plug-in vehicles (PEVs) are expected to be shipped with li-ion batteries in the coming years,” said William Tokash, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “It’s anticipated that well-funded, stable li-ion battery companies—particularly those focused on relationships with original equipment manufacturers in the United States, China, and Western Europe—will be in the best position to succeed in the coming years.”

According to the Navigant report, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are expected to account for the majority of demand for li-ion EV batteries. This is due to the larger battery packs typical of these vehicles, which are expected to have 72 percent of the market.

Got some microgrid news? Email Elisa@MicrogridKnowledge.com, or read more Quick Microgrid News here

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