Moving Forward — Storage Batteries for Large Solar Projects

Sterling, MA — Battery Energy Storage with Solar at a Municipal Light Company

On a recent sunny Saturday, Pat Larson and Janice Kurkoski traveled to Sterling Mass to attend a tour, organized by the Mass Climate Action Network (MCAN), of the grid-tied battery storage project at the Sterling Municipal Light Department’s substation. Installed in 2016, it is the first utility-scale battery storage project in New England, The $2.5 million project was built with a $1.46 million grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The project is estimated to pay for itself in 2 years, (or in 6 years if no grants were included).  In addition to its backup function for the local police station, Sterling Municipal uses the batteries to shave peak load and reduce the amount of expensive power it has to buy from the ISO New England during times of high demand. Last year alone, the project saved the utility $400,000. The utility can then pass these savings onto their customers in the form of lower rates, which are around 30% lower than what neighboring National Grid customers pay.

Even more exciting is the fact that the battery storage is coupled with a large Sterling Municipal-owned solar project just up the road, which allows them to charge the batteries during the day with power from their solar panels, then return the power from the batteries to their grid into the evening after the sun fades. Across the street from the substation, another large roof-top PV array is about to go on line. The latter is a Power Purchase Agreement with Origis Energy USA, and is dubbed the “Sterling Community Solar & Energy Storage” project.

“We have tremendous support from our community to implement progressive clean energy initiatives,” said Sean Hamilton, Manager, Sterling Municipal Light Department. “The Sterling Community Solar + Energy Storage project allows us to take another step forward, opening up access to solar energy to a broad spectrum of our customers, including those for which installing an independent solar power system is challenging. The technology also supports our goals to provide competitive electricity rates while further enhancing the resiliency, grid stability and environmental standards we have come to embrace here in Sterling.”

In all, about 35% of Sterling Municipal’s power is generated from renewable resources that the utility buys under contract, says Hamilton. That includes three solar contracts (including the new one with Origis), three wind contracts, and six contracts with small hydropower plants.

Conclusion: 100% Renewables on the grid is only possible if hundreds more localized projects like this come on-line. Kudos to Sterling Municipal Light Department and Sean Hamilton for having the foresight to make this work. Lets wake up National Grid, Eversource, and our neighbors to this reality – it’s no longer just a pipe dream!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *