Dominion plans big battery test in New Kent 


Dominion plans big battery test in New Kent 

Dominion Energy wants to install a giant battery at its Barhamsville substation to see if the technology can solve potential headaches when there’s a lot of solar-powered electricity generation feeding a transmission line.

The utility is asking the State Corporation Commission to approve plans to install a 2-megawatt lithium-ion battery at the New Kent County substation, which serves solar facilities generating 20 megawatts of electricity — at least, while the sun shines.

But when the sun isn’t shining, there’s a risk that electricity will start flowing the wrong way on a transmission line, a flow that could exceed what the substation can handle. Dominion thinks a big battery to store that so-called “backfeed” will ensure that wrong-way flows don’t disrupt the electric grid.

The $2.9 million project is one of four battery systems the utility wants to try out. In all, it plans to invest $33 million in the four systems, according to its filing with the SCC.

If the SCC finds the project will improve reliability of the grid, Dominion said it could have the New Kent battery up and running in December 2020.

“These pilot projects will enable Dominion Energy to better understand how best to deploy batteries to help overcome the inherent fluctuation of wind and solar generation sources,” said Mark D. Mitchell, vice president for generation construction.

Joe Woomer, Dominion’s vice president for grid and technical solutions said the utility wants to see if batteries might be an alternative to the usual way the company manages electricity flow and voltage variations, with transformers and other large electrical components.

Not that the battery would be small.

ABB Inc., one of the major manufacturers of large lithium-ion batteries, says its version fits in a 53-foot long box that looks like a shipping container.

Batteries are gaining more attention from utilities, as costs fall. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance research firm says the all-in cost per megawatt of new battery projects linked to solar or wind plants is starting to match the cost of coal- or natural-gas fired plants, after accounting for construction and running expenses.

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