Vermont Bill Would Increase State’s Energy Storage Capacity

A bill (H.501) currently before the Vermont General Assembly would require the Vermont Department of Public Service  “to develop policy recommendations and targets for the installation and increase of electricity storage capacity connected to the Vermont transmission and distribution system, particularly for the storage of electricity from intermittent sources.”

The measure, sponsored by State Representative Laura Sibilia (I-West Dover), was debated in the House Committee on Energy and Technology on April 7, according to a report by the Rutland Herald.

And it had the very active backing of regulated utility Green Mountain Power.  Indeed, when Green Mountain Power’s Stafford Hill solar facility went online last year, it included a pilot experiment in storage — 3.5 MWh of battery capacity charged by the solar panels, the local news outlet said.

The batteries were connected to nearby Rutland High School to power the building in its capacity as an emergency shelter, should power go down in the area. While the utility has not had to put that capability to the test, GMP VP of Innovation Josh Castonguay said they have had “significant success reducing peak power needs.”

Castonguay said during last year’s annual peak, power from the batteries kept GMP from having to buy about $200,000 in power from the New England grid, and that saves customers about $10,000 in a typical month.

“Every time this battery is being leveraged, it’s lowering that cost,” he said.

Storage capacity does not need to be hosted at a large generation facility. Castonguay said batteries can be placed at substations, and that the utility has also been encouraging individual customers to take advantage of storage with home-scale batteries manufactured by Tesla.

“There’s a lot happening in the space and it’s really going to be an economic driver,” testified Olivia Campbell, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, noting that several Vermont companies manufacture such batteries for worldwide distribution. “We are poised for it to be a strong part of growing our economy. … Storage is definitely the future of clean energy and necessary to achieve 90 percent total renewable energy.”

Meanwhile, Sibilia said the bill as she introduced it included a call for the department to look at establishing goals for storage capacity on the grid, but that language was softened in committee.

“I think it has been our intention all along to work with the department and have them come back and give us a good overview,” she told the Rutland Herald. “I think we did not want to get too prescriptive out of the gate. This is emerging technology. … Next year, I would expect we would get much more detailed

“It’s a very active topic right now in the renewable energy world, in the grid-management world,”  Anne Margolis, Renewable Energy Development manager for the Vermont Department of Public Service, told the newspaper. “Outside this bill, we’re already looking at all kinds of storage … and how it fits into our planning world.”

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