Construction on one of Ohio’s largest solar projects with a 7-MW/2.8-MWh energy storage facility is expected to be completed in the next several weeks.
Though it is a single solar/storage project, American Renewable Energy and Power (AREP) worked with the village of Minster to locate the storage site adjacent to one of the village’s substations, creating a very efficient energy delivery process.
“American Renewable is committed to Public Power and School Districts,” said David Dwyer, owner of AREP. “We are convinced that this combined market will be the energy game-changer in America. Comprising over 20% of the aggregate electricity use in the U.S., public power can help this country shake off the grip of huge power providers and bring the benefits directly to the people they serve. We don’t want the benefits of distributed energy to fall into the hands of a few professional rich guys.”
Minster and AREP put together a design and a PPA in June 2014, but Ohio’s passage of Senate Bill 310 in July 2014 halted renewable energy standards and made investments in large-scale solar unattractive in the state. In August, Dwyer began talking options with several investment groups.
“After Senate Bill 310, we realized we needed a new, creative approach,” he said. “All utility solar and wind projects stopped when, as a direct result of 310, the SREC market went stagnant.”
Dwyer considered molding the project into a community solar development, but it seemed that a storage system would better suit Minster’s distribution system improvement plans and business development goals. After working with Minster’s city council, village administration, legal advisors and energy consultants to approve the battery storage plan and amendment to the PPA, AREP began negotiations with battery-specify investors.
“The mayor and council could have just said ‘No, all this is too much trouble,’ but we persevered in our research,” he said. “We discovered and then verified the great many benefits the solar/storage combination could provide.”
The 18-acre, 4.3-MW solar array and medium voltage connection are nearly complete. The 7-MW/2.8-MWh energy storage system will improve power quality locally and within PJM’s transmission grid, which serves more than 60 million customers. Minster will receive reactive power compensation, voltage support, improved grid power quality and potential peak demand reduction.
After a long process of research and development, in December 2014, Half Moon Ventures was brought in as the investment group and eventual owner of the completed project. S&C Electric Company won the bid to supply the PureWave SMS (storage management system), which consists of LG lithium-ion batteries. Together, the solar array and the energy storage system will allow Minster to reduce its peak demand charges and reduce spot market risk.
“With the new system, we are able to improve reliability and capacity while leveraging renewable energy sources without costly investments into grid expansion,” said Michael Hastings, CEO of Half Moon Ventures (HMV) in a press statement.
Dwyer’s research and experience makes him certain that public power and school districts form the economic and distributed energy backbone of America.
“It’s all about strengthening the local economy,” he said. “We will work only with investors that share our values.” He estimates that over 85% of this project has been completed by local professionals. The engineers, solar installers, racking and inverter suppliers, electricians, attorneys and consultants are all from Ohio or the Midwest.
Future AREP solar/storage clients (Ohio municipal utilities and school districts) will also have the ability to bid into several of the PJM markets. As system co-investors and owners, they can receive proportional benefits and have access to instantaneous backup power when needed. They will also have a community solar/storage option.
“As solar power professionals in Ohio, we are held to a higher standard,” said Dwyer, “and we are determined to be like the Wright Brothers not the Koch Brothers.”