Xcel Energy to test battery storage tech with Sunverge and Energy Northern Reliability

Xcel Energy is partnering with battery vendors Sunverge Energy and Northern Reliability in a two-year pilot project in Stapleton, Colorado’s North Central Park and Eastbridge neighborhoods.

Xcel Energy and Northern Reliability of Vermont are also building a system that uses Pika Energy power electronics and advanced energy storage to relieve peaking demand on a feeder in Stapleton.

As customers’ demand for solar energy in their homes and businesses increases, this is a crucial time for Xcel Energy to learn how battery storage can help integrate higher concentrations of photovoltaic solar energy onto its system. The company wants to not only learn how to accommodate more solar energy onto its grid, but also manage other grid issues such as voltage regulation and peak demand, and reduce energy costs.

“For the program, Xcel Energy is testing six in-home, behind-the-meter battery units and six larger, utility-scale units along the feeder that serves the majority of the North Central Park and Eastbridge neighborhoods,” said Beth Chacon, Xcel Energy’s director of grid storage and emerging technologies. “We chose the Stapleton area because it has among the highest concentrations of rooftop installations in the Denver area.”

Distribution feeders bring electricity into homes and businesses and carry the energy produced by in-home solar systems to the electric grid. All three companies want to understand how energy storage can help manage the impact of high concentration of rooftop solar energy on a feeder in these Stapleton neighborhoods. This includes accommodating more solar energy on Xcel Energy’s grid, while also storing excess solar power during the day and discharging stored power during peak energy usage times. There is also the hope of learning more about regulating voltage spikes and reducing energy costs.

San Francisco-based Sunverge Energy is providing the six in-home batteries and control software. Each 15.5 kWh, AC-coupled Sunverge One energy storage system is expected to be installed in the spring of 2017, and will be paired with pre-existing rooftop solar PV arrays.

“Sunverge’s cloud-based platform will allow Xcel Energy to control individual Sunverge storage systems and aggregate them into virtual power plants,” said Ken Munson, Sunverge Energy CEO. “This modest investment in storage can translate into less need for expensive feeder upgrades, as well as reduce the need to build new generation or switch on peaker plants.

“Sunverge partners with forward-thinking utilities like Xcel Energy who are dealing with the rapid transformation of the electric grid. We believe the grid will continue to be an important resource for the public well into the future, and utilities like Xcel Energy are exploring new technologies that allow them to simultaneously deliver value-added services to their customers while making the grid more reliable than ever.”

Meanwhile, Waitsfield, VT-based Northern Reliability Inc. (NRI) is supplying the six, utility-scale batteries that will be placed on either end of the distribution feed half loop and are paired to match the entire loop’s reverse power flow.

“Xcel Energy’s Stapleton project afforded the team here at Northern Reliability, Inc. the ability to design a system that focuses on power quality management and renewable integration using a distributed storage model that was unique to the larger storage projects happening in the US,” said Jay Bellows, NRI, CEO.

“Unlike the traditional large-scale battery energy storage systems NRI has been designing for utilities lately, Xcel Energy challenged the team to arrive at a solution that responds to the state of power quality on the local grid through a series of systems,” Bellows said. “The resiliency and redundancy provided by these systems, spread out through multiple neighborhoods, is incredibly forward thinking. This is exciting as it brings distributed storage resources one step closer to widespread adoption. This kind of innovation furthers the goals of increasing the penetration of renewable generators while simultaneously protecting the utilities from variances in the power quality.”

NRI’s batteries are expected to be installed in the fall of 2017, and comprise two 18 kW batteries, two 36 kW batteries and two 54 kW batteries.

The Stapleton project is one of two Innovative Clean Technology (ICT) Programs approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in 2016. Xcel Energy’s clean technology program enables the testing of emerging energy technologies that promise lower greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental benefits. The project is estimated to cost $4 million. In addition, the ICT not only provides the opportunity to test new technologies and evaluate their cost, but evaluate reliability and environmental performance on a small, demonstration scale before determining whether to deploy them widely for customers.

News item from Xcel Energy

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