OPPD’s first lithium-ion battery went live March 23, the culmination of nearly three years of planning and testing by several of the utility’s departments.
The battery is housed at a substation near Weeping Water in Cass County and is the first stand-alone utility-scale battery in the state. Nebraska Public Power District also has a battery energy storage system, but it is tied to a solar facility in Norfolk and serves as a demonstration project.
OPPD received a $600,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust to help fund the battery pilot program, also known as BRIGHT (Battery Research Innovation Guided by High-Potential Technologies).
OPPD will use the 80-ton battery to test how to integrate battery storage into the utility’s grid. Officials will also test the battery’s abilities to provide load relief and voltage support at the substation level. The battery will first run on a regular charge and discharge cycle, based on when that area of the grid uses less energy.
That kind of use can help the district with overall capacity because the stored energy will be able to power a small area of the grid, freeing up resources to energize other parts. On the hottest days of the year, the battery storage system could help prevent a nearby circuit from overloading, tripping and causing an outage.
“This is a first for the company and distribution operations,” said Matt Shantz, manager of Distribution Operations at OPPD. “We’re going to ease in. We want to get comfortable with how it operates.”
WEG Electric Corp. constructed the battery. OPPD has a three-year contract with WEG and Fractal EMS to operate and maintain the energy storage system.
The one-megawatt (MW) battery will be capable of producing one MW of power for up to about two hours. That’s comparable to providing power for nearly 75 homes with one full discharge.
The energy storage system is like having a new tool in the utility toolbox, said Jim Helmberger, principal engineer in Systems Transformation.
It will help OPPD learn about utility-scale energy storage. It will also provide a study of how customers’ increasing use of similar technology affects the grid, such as when they charge their electric vehicles.
“In some ways, it’s going to behave similarly to battery equipment you plug in the wall,” he said. “But in other ways, it offers utilities new opportunities. It can change how you think about your options.”
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