Microgrids Among Winners of $20M in Energy Storage Grants from Massachusetts

Dec. 7, 2017
Several microgrids are among the more than two dozen winning projects announced today that will share $20 million in energy storage grants from Massachusetts.

Several microgrids are among the more than two dozen winning projects that will share $20 million in energy storage grants announced today by Massachusetts.

Reflecting the reality of today’s market, battery technology dominated the winners list, although some projects also employ thermal and flywheel storage. Use of battery storage has increased dramatically in recent years as its costs have fallen.

Called “Advancing Commonwealth Energy Storage,”  the grant program is part of a larger move by the state to stake a leadership position in the growing storage market. The state intends to demonstrate various storage applications with an eye towards replicating them on a larger scale.

To that end, the projects show what’s often called the “Swiss army knife” nature of energy storage — its ability to solve a range of electricity problems.

The winners will use energy storage for back-up power, resiliency, demand management, greenhouse gas reduction, non-wires alternatives, grid congestion relief, demand charge reduction, revenue enhancement, renewable energy integration and other purposes.

Judith Judson, commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), said that projects will “provide a roadmap for how Massachusetts can integrate storage into our diversified energy portfolio to lower overall energy costs, increase grid efficiency by decreasing peak demand, and more effectively utilize our strong clean energy sector.”

In all, the winning projects represent 32 MW/85 MWh of energy storage, of which 16 MW/45 MWh are within utility territories. There is already about 4 MW/7 MWh of advanced energy storage installed in Massachusetts.

Microgrid projects that won the energy storage grants
  • University Massachusetts Marlborough/Marlborough Memorial Hospital: Will co-locate a 300kW/800kWh flow battery with combined heat and power and ground-mounted solar array. This system will showcase a microgrid for critical facilities with additional benefits such as capacity charge reduction and demand response. Project team: National Grid, Next Grid Markets, McHale & Associates, ViZn Energy Systems and Icetec
  • MIT Lincoln Lab: Five Solect Energy modular storage units, totaling 1250Kw/2500kWh, will provide energy resilience to the lab’s research and development campus and an adjacent military base. The lithium-ion battery system will demonstrate a shared savings business model. Project team: Solect Energy and MIT Lincoln Lab
  • University of Massachusetts: Using 1000kW/400 kWh lithium ion batteries, the storage will balance system constraints with its 15 MW cogeneration plant and ~5MW solar PV array. The University of Massachusetts Clean Energy Extension expects the long-duration battery to lend itself to more resiliency benefits.
  • Reading Municipal Light Department: The municipal utility will install a leased storage system for use as peak demand management. The 5,000kW/10,000kWh lithium battery system also is expected to reduce electricity prices, defer transmission and distribution investments and reduce GHG emissions. It will be co-located with a 2.5 MW natural gas fueled generator, potentially supporting a future microgrid for RMLD’s critical loads within a highly constrained region of ISO New England. RMLD will work with NextEra Energy.

Other winners offer a range of innovations.

Tesla and National Grid plan to aggregate Powerwall home batteries at 500 homes on Nantucket. This would give the island more resilient power and allow it to defer construction of a new undersea electric cable to the mainland.

Ameresco will use a power purchase agreement model for what it’s calling “between-the-meter” storage co-located with existing solar at Partners Healthcare headquarters. The project will aim for peak demand reduction and virtual net metering. If the between-the-meter model proves viable, it could be replicated for community solar projects.

Working with AECOM and RDK Engineers, GE plans to install an ice storage system collocated with solar at GE’s new headquarters being developed in Boston.

Advanced Microgrid Solutions and National Grid plan to install storage paired with software controls at two Walmart stores. The units will manage demand, a model the team says could be replicated across big box stores.

Demand Energy Networks and its parent ENEL North America will install batteries at the University of Massachusetts Boston to improve grid resiliency and reduce greenhouse gases. Working with EnterSolar, the team will create a living laboratory on the campus used for educational purposes.

Interested in the nexus between energy storage and microgrids? Learn more at Microgrid 2018.

Borrego Solar will create a virtual power plant using three storage systems for the Braintree Electric Light Department. The project is unique in that it will also pilot a community storage-as-a-service model to help reduce participating customers’ peak coincident charges.

NEC Energy Solutions, Ashburnham Municipal Light Plant and the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company plan to install lithium batteries to allow more residential and commercial renewable energy on an area of the grid that is over-saturated.

List of all energy storage grant winners (Mass DOER/MassCEC)

The projects were selected from a solicitation issued by the DOER and Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) in March. The state originally planned to offer energy storage grants totaling $10 million but doubled the award based on the strong interest. Massachusetts officials expect the winning projects to attract $32 million in matching funds.

The solicitation is one of a series of steps taken by the state to foster energy storage and microgrid development, as it vies with California, New York and a handful of other states to attract the industries and their promise of jobs.

Last year, the state issued a report, State of Charge, that identified hundreds of millions of dollars of potential ratepayer benefits for energy storage in Massachusetts. And in June, the DOER announced a 200 MWh energy storage target for the state’s three investor-owned electric utilities to achieve by Jan. 1, 2020.

“These projects represent a substantial step forward for the emerging energy storage sector in Massachusetts,” said MassCEC CEO Stephen Pike. “The Commonwealth’s leadership in developing this industry will allow renewable energy sources to be harnessed to their full potential and increase the resiliency of the electrical grid.”

Separately, the MassCEC is now in the process of evaluating applications for $75,000 grants to be used for community microgrid feasibility studies.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is the editor and founder of EnergyChangemakers.com. She is co-founder and former editor of Microgrid Knowledge.

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