A very large new Lithium-ion battery was unveiled Saturday in Oregon to help make the Northwest’s and the nation’s electric system more efficient, officials said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

PGEs 5 MW Lithium Ion Battery Array.  Click image for the largest view.  Image Credit PNNL.

PGEs 5 MW Lithium Ion Battery Array. Click image for the largest view. Image Credit PNNL.

Portland General Electric’s 5-megawatt, lithium-ion energy storage system was open to the public at the utility’s Salem Smart Power Center in South Salem, Ore. The energy storage facility is part of PGE’s contribution to the Battelle-led Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project. Half of PGE’s $23-million portion of the regional project was paid for with U.S. Department of Energy funds. The regional demonstration is a five-year, $178-million project that launched in 2010.

That’s a bunch of money for a battery.

The battery is part of a highly reliable, localized power zone called a microgrid that will enable about 500 southeast Salem customers to tap into a power reserve during electricity disruptions such as blackouts. The per customer cost is about $46,000.  The battery and microgrid are examples of the innovative technologies and methods being tested through the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.

Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary for the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, which oversees regional smart grid demonstration projects said, “The Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project is a successful public-private partnership involving 17 organizations across five Northwest states. It is a highly innovative project demonstrating transactive energy management, which is a promising, cost-effective way to integrate variable renewable energy, energy storage and demand response at scale. The celebration of the Salem Smart Power Center makes it clear that Oregon is helping to lead the way on energy storage commercialization and grid modernization.”

The energy storage system will respond to regional grid conditions with the help of a key aspect of the demonstration called transactive control. Transactive control is based on technology from DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is managed by Battelle. The technology helps power producers and users decide how much of the area’s power will be consumed, when and where. This is done when producers and users automatically respond to signals representing future power costs and planned energy consumption. The cost signals originate at Battelle’s Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center in Richland, Wash. They are updated every five minutes and sent to the project’s participating utilities, including PGE.

The automated signals allow project participants to make local decisions on how their piece of the smart grid project can support local and regional grid needs. Participants are now gathering data to measure how the signal can help deliver electricity more effectively, help better integrate wind power onto the power grid and more. The Salem battery will use the signal to coordinate its charge and discharge cycles with the power grid’s supply and demand.

“Two-way information exchange in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project allows grid operators to make the existing electric grid more efficient, while also exploring how using other technologies such as PGE’s energy storage system, smart appliances and wind power can bolster the reliability of our system,” said Carl Imhoff, who manages Battelle’s Electricity Infrastructure Market Sector in Richland.

PGE is testing several smart-grid technologies in the Salem area for the demonstration project.  An investor-owned utility that serves about 830,000 customers in 52 Oregon cities, PGE is testing several smart-grid technologies in the Salem area for the demonstration project.

Beyond the energy storage system unveiled today, PGE is working to integrate renewable power sources to the power grid. It is also implementing a demand-response program with residential and commercial customers to help meet peak demand. All these resources will be optimized with the automated transactive control signal.

Jim Piro, PGE president and CEO said, “Together with our project partners and customers, we are demonstrating smart grid technologies to help Oregon and the nation learn how to build intelligent energy resources for the future while continuing to deliver long-term value for customers. We are proud of the collaboration, hard work and ingenuity that went into this project, and thank our Salem customers who volunteered to participate in this important study.”

It’s a big battery, one of a kind, first of its kind, not something mass-produced or low cost.  Yet the battery cells would hopefully be something off the shelf.  In any case it’s a breathtaking $46K per customer.  It defies reason to imagine how such a cost per user is going to ever pay back.

It must be a west coast thing.  One can only hope they learn form all of this that such an investment in storage vs producing power looks well . . .

The investors and ratepayers, even with half the cost borne by the government, must be wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into.  In a place with a low cost hydro generating supply, intensifying competition for plant sites and job growth opportunities where low energy cost are important, the question becomes is the choice good or bad for the future.

But out on the coast the hot trend is green energy and everything else seems to disappear, especially good sense.


4 Comments so far

  1. Bård Havre on June 3, 2013 5:04 AM

    This is research, large scale. The lessons learned here will undoubtedly be valuable in managing mixed grids in the future.

  2. JeffC on June 3, 2013 7:13 AM

    at $46,000 per customer its not just a big battery it a very, very, very expensive battery …
    what was the matter with a $1,000 Home Depot generator ?

  3. Adam on June 3, 2013 5:01 PM

    at $46,000 per customer, seems way too pricey, that would be a good sized solar system with battery back-up.

  4. Harvey on June 4, 2013 10:18 AM

    Remember, folks, that green-minded planners and academics are activists, and believe that no price is too high to pay to enact their golden inner vision.

    Practicality ain’t in it.

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