EPB Energizes Flow Battery To Better Serve Customers And Support National Grid Modernization Efforts

Friday, September 22, 2017

EPB has energized a 100kW/400kWh Vanadium Redox Flow Battery as part of a national research effort to explore the best use of cutting edge technologies that could be implemented across the United States to modernize the power grid.

Because Chattanooga’s power distribution infrastructure combines a community-wide fiber optics network with more than 1,200 automated power management devices to form one of the most advanced smart grids in the country, we are well-positioned to serve as a living laboratory for testing new technologies and developing best practices that will help other utilities modernize their infrastructure,” said EPB board of directors chairman Joe Ferguson. “EPB thanks its partners for joining with us in an effort to better serve our local customers while conducting research that will benefit people across the United States.”

EPB’s project constitutes a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as part of the DOE’s Grid Modernization Lab Consortium (GMLC) program.  The goal of the GMLC is to develop and test new technologies that can enhance the flexibility and resiliency of the national power grid.  The battery system for the EPB project is provided by UniEnergy Technologies (UET), a U.S. manufacturer.

Senator Lamar Alexander said, “Doubling energy research is the best way to help lower the cost of energy, clean the air, improve health, increase family incomes, and produce good-paying jobs. Today we’re celebrating an important milestone for EPB, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory and UniEnergy Technologies, who are working together to help solve an urgent problem facing this country – which is how to make sure we can store the energy we produce and use it when we need it. The Department of Energy, which provided $500,000 to support this battery project, is working to develop new energy storage technologies to help modernize our nation’s electric grid. Renewable sources of electricity – like the solar array in Chattanooga – contribute to our nation’s clean energy, but we’ve got to improve our ability to store that energy, because the sun doesn’t always shine.”

Senator Alexander said storing electricity is not a new problem, and as chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, he has provided $137 million in funding for the Energy Storage program within the Office of Electricity and Energy Reliability though the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.

He said, “The good news for Chattanooga is that our national laboratories are working on finding solutions to the problem. Research at the national laboratories has helped to develop better technologies for energy storage, including solid state batteries, flow batteries – like the one in this facility today –flywheels, compressed air, thermal storage, and pumped-hydropower, like the TVA Raccoon Mountain facility just west of here.”

Senator Alexander said national laboratories cannot solve energy storage problems on their own – and discussed how public and private industry partners who are willing to adopt new technologies that have additional risks and the costs can work together.

“EPB is a good example of how the federal government can work together with a utility to develop and deploy new technologies, and I applaud their leadership. The information we learn from this project will give researchers at our national laboratories valuable insights that they can use to make this technology even better – modernizing our nation’s electricity grid to make it more reliable and responsive to customers.”

Senator Bob Corker said, “It will come as no surprise to our community that Chattanooga and EPB are continuing to play an important role in the modernization of our country’s power grid. Through this partnership, we will be able to better understand energy storage and test new technologies in an effort to bring resilient and affordable electricity to Americans. An extensive and reliable grid is critical for a 21st century economy, and I thank EPB, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and their partners for their work to improve our nation’s infrastructure.”

Installed at the site of EPB’s Solar Share community solar array in Chattanooga, the battery system is a pilot project to explore how large-scale energy storage can be integrated with smart grid automation to provide consistent output from highly variable power generation sources like solar as well as how these devices could be used as a “battery backup” to reduce the impact of outages. In addition, the advanced flow battery has the capacity to store bulk energy during off-peak hours when fewer customers are using it so that the power can be released to meet needs during times of higher power demand.

“This battery storage project is a great example of why I have worked so hard to build bridges between Chattanooga and Oak Ridge National Lab,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. “Through this initiative, we have the opportunity to enhance our local power distribution infrastructure for the benefit of people in our hometown community while advancing the national effort to modernize the grid.”

"This project is a wonderful example of what can happen when local and national entities work together," said Rep. Diane Black. "As a result of thoughtful collaboration, this community is not only enhancing local power distribution infrastructure, but also contributing to the national effort to modernize and improve the reliability of the power grid.  President Trump's Department of Energy is truly reaching out to partner with Tennessee to improve energy production."

EPB will use the battery system for a wide variety of applications including solar integration, voltage regulation, back-up power, advanced microgrid operations and energy management.  Working closely with the national laboratories, EPB will hone the control strategies used to operate and maximize the value proposition for utilizing battery systems.  The utility and the labs will also collaborate to quantify and analyze the different benefits from the project to EPB’s customers.

“This installation combines cutting edge, long duration storage technology with an outstanding communication network,” said Dr. Imre Gyuk, director of Energy Storage Research in DOE’s Office of Electricity. “Chattanooga will serve as an example of innovative electrical infrastructure for Tennessee and the Nation.”

“Our partnership with EPB continues to create exciting opportunities to enhance the security and resilience of the electric grid,” said Dr. Thomas Zacharia, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “This project is leveraging our shared strengths in sensing and measurement, advanced control concepts, and cybersecurity to explore the potential value of this emerging technology for the region and the nation.”

The advanced vanadium flow battery technology utilized in the UET system was developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, with the support of the DOE Office of Electricity.  Sandia National Laboratories has assessed the technology’s applications in the U.S. and globally.  Starting in 2012, UET commercialized that technology into grid-scale containerized flow battery products, with 380 megawatt-hours of systems deployed, contracted, and awarded in three countries and six U.S. states.  UET’s technology features no degradation of power or energy, unrestricted cycles, and 20+ year life.

Our community is proud to once again serve as a testing ground for advanced technology and infrastructure,” said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. “I hope other researchers and entrepreneurs will continue to think of the Chattanooga area as an ideal place to develop and launch new products and technologies.”

This project is the next step in EPB’s continuing effort to serve our customers by providing world-class energy solutions as the electric industry undergoes rapid change,” said David Wade, president and CEO of EPB. “As it becomes possible to deploy large-scale battery storage throughout our system, I envision a time when we can further reduce the number of customers impacted by outages. As our community becomes more dependent on solar power generation, we will be able to keep power flowing consistently when clouds cause solar generation to drop off suddenly. I can even foresee a future when it is possible for us to utilize energy storage to reduce the need to make massive investments in building or replacing power generation plants.”




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