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The Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Blog

Avista’s Energy Storage Project Celebrates One Year Online

May 23rd, 2016 · 3 Comments · Energy

By Curt Kirkeby, Avista Fellow Engineer

It’s been one year since Avista flipped the switch on our Energy Storage Project in Pullman, Wash., to officially connect the one-megawatt battery to the electrical grid. The historic event was attended by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Senator Maria Cantwell, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, officials from the Department of Energy and other dignitaries.

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Photo of Heather Rosentrater of Avista with Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Avista Utilities President Dennis Vermillion and former Avista VP of Energy Delivery Don Kopczynski as they “flip(ped) the switch” on the vanadium-flow energy storage project in April 2015

Avista’s Energy Storage Project is the latest example of Avista’s history of innovation and commitment to forge our energy future. Our leading-edge energy storage research that’s now underway will help address one of the biggest challenges facing today’s energy industry: How to integrate power generated from intermittent, renewable resources such as wind and solar into the electrical grid. We’re also examining better ways to improve power system reliability.

The missing piece

We all expect reliable energy when we need it. But electric energy—including power from renewable resources—must be used as soon as it is generated. So if the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining during times when people need the most energy, it is not always possible to meet demand.

Avista’s Energy Storage project is testing new batteries that can store power when it’s abundant and distribute energy when it’s needed, providing reliable energy to our customers regardless of weather patterns.

Energy storage could be the missing piece to solve the puzzle of integrating renewable resources into the electric grid.

Investing in forging our energy future

Avista’s Energy Storage Project is currently the largest-capacity, vanadium-flow battery system operating in North America and Europe. The one-megawatt, 3.2 MWh large-scale battery storage system has the capacity to power 750 homes for 3.2 hours. The project carries a $7M price tag, which is supported in part by a $3.2M Clean Energy Fund and matching Avista funds ($3.8M).

As part of our research, Avista will test this large-scale energy storage system for a number of use cases with the goal of increasing efficiency and building a more reliable system. We’ve located the battery on the campus of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories – the close proximity to SEL’s manufacturing facility allows us to conduct these tests in a real-world setting, which provides an added benefit to our research.

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As one of our test cases, we plan to examine the potential of battery storage as a back-up energy source during a power outage in manufacturing facilities where reliability is critical to operations. Since battery power is available almost instantaneously, it will provide flexibility for sudden fluctuations in power supply or demand. That’s just one example.

Putting technology to the test

Speaking of real-world situations. We were able to put the battery to the test last summer during an extended heat wave in the Spokane and eastern Washington region. After several consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures, we knew that the demand for energy was going to increase over the weekend when people were home all day using their air conditioners.

The battery operated as planned – we charged the battery when wholesale energy prices were low. And we used the energy during the hours when customers needed it most. The battery helped us manage through what we call peak loads on our electric system.

The heat wave scenario is just one example of how we can tap into energy storage in the future. It moves us forward in our research and supports Avista’s goal to explore how energy storage can help our electrical grid become more flexible, more reliable, and more resilient.

We’re excited by the lessons we’re already learning. These lessons will benefit ALL of our customers, the industry as a whole and could transform the nation’s power grid. It’s proof that Avista is indeed forging our energy future.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Terry Carroll

    CSI would like to thank Curt Kirkeby and Laurine Jue from Avista Utilities for putting this post together for us!

  • KC Kuykendall

    Great success story! I wonder if the ESS has been utilized for frequency maintenance, in addition to the peak demand example given?

    • Curt Kirkeby

      We are currently automating controls to leverage the ESS for primary Fast Frequency Response (FFR). This value is interesting as it can have the impact of two times the nameplate (2.4MW vs 1.2MW) if the unit is in the opposite state. An example, if frequency drops and the battery is charging 1.2MW, the FFR value is 2.4MW as we switch to discharging at 1.2MW. This opportunity could get added to the stack of energy values for every hour of availability.

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