Commonwealth Edison, a leader on community microgrids, is now making a move into the fledgling arena of community energy storage as well.
The Exelon subsidiary Thursday announced the first of what are expected to be multiple pilot projects that use batteries to improve electric reliability for communities. ComEd is focusing on areas prone to power outages from harsh weather.
The Chicago-based utility is using S&C Electric’s PureWave Community Energy Storage (CES) system. The 25 kWh lithium-ion battery system was installed in Beecher, about 40 miles south of Chicago.
Also called distributed energy storage, community energy storage features modular units typically placed near where they will be used. In this case, equipment is located near existing utility equipment that provides power to the homes of Beecher customers selected for the pilot.
Should a power outage occur, the energy storage system automatically restores power to the homes. The homeowner will experience a barely perceptible, momentary outage when the switch takes place. The system has enough capacity to supply power to a group of customers for the duration of most typical outages, according to the utility.
ComEd wants to see if the technology can help drive continuous improvement in service reliability.
“Through grid modernization and smart grid investments, our reliability performance has been best on record for five years running, and we’re committed to continuous improvement,” said Michelle Blaise, senior vice president, Technical Services, ComEd. “We want all ComEd customers to experience great reliability and that’s why we’re innovating and piloting emerging technologies such as energy storage to bring new value to communities and help improve service for our customers. We’re excited about the potential that battery storage offers to minimize the impact of a power outage while we continue to make progress in preventing them.”
Blaise said that ComEd plans to undertake additional CES pilots, as well testing of energy storage to support the integration of renewable energy. The utility is working on a solar and storage microgrid with a $4 million grant from the Department of Energy.
Community energy storage is a relatively rare undertaking for U.S. utilities. The Energy Storage Association traces its roots to a project by American Electric Power in 2005 that began with testing sodium sulfur batteries.
In 2014, DTE Energy installed 1-MW of distributed Li-ion energy storage on a distribution circuit near Monroe, Michigan. The project also used the S&C Electric CES system.
While community energy storage offers promise for increasing grid reliability, it often falls through the cracks in terms of government support, according to its advocates. For that reason, the Community Storage Initiative formed last year, with support from the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, the Peak Load Management Alliance, the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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