Blog Page


One way to make Kitsap's power grid more resilient? Giant batteries – Kitsap Sun

ARLINGTON — Near the south bank of the Stillaguamish River, rows of solar panels line up as straight as the many crops farmers once planted on land that now borders a municipal airport. 
The array, built and operated by Snohomish PUD, is minuscule when compared with modern solar parks that now dot the American West. But that isn’t the point. Its silicon panels are helping charge a semi-truck-sized bank of batteries that demonstrate the “microgrid” that will be necessary to deploy in the clean energy economy of the future.
It’s the first of its kind in Washington, but it won’t be the last. 
“We’re an early adopter of this technology,” said Scott Gibson, energy storage program manager for Snohomish PUD, who will help cut the ribbon on the facility on Oct. 25. “We see it as part of our future.”
Put simply, America’s electricity grids, including the one on the Kitsap Peninsula, are soon going to need a lot more energy storage. 
Here’s why. Power grids today are fed with electricity that consistently streams from the source to the homes and businesses at the end of power lines. Some plants, such as those powered by nuclear or natural gas, can increase or decrease output to meet demand. But as solar panels, windmills and other renewable sources increasingly bring power to the grid, they don’t have that luxury — the sun doesn’t shine at night, and the wind doesn’t always blow. 
Power providers like Puget Sound Energy and the Snohomish PUD must find a way, as sources like coal and natural gas are phased out, to keep the power on. Big-scale battery projects have emerged as a way to hold additional solar and wind power within the grid at times when generation isn’t happening.
“You can charge the storage when you have abundant sun and wind,” said Daniel Kirschen, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Washington. “And discharge it when you don’t.” 
Puget Sound Energy has called for proposals to build such energy storage in Kitsap County, with three leading candidates so far. A 125-megawatt facility, proposed by Novis Renewables of New York, would put a utility-sized bank of batteries off Sand Dollar Road West, south of Bremerton. Another proposal, pitched by a party not yet disclosed by the utility, would build a similar facility at Foss Corner, a PSE substation in Suquamish, that would provide 200 megawatts. Finally, Puget Sound Energy itself is already committed to a smaller, 3.3-megawatt battery bank at its Murden Cove substation on Bainbridge.
It isn’t just cars that will increase demand on the electricity grid. State lawmakers have passed hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding to electrify the Washington State Ferries, adding charging capacity at terminals around the sound, building new hybrid-diesel electric ferries and converting existing boats. 
The ferry system is calling for battery storage to be built at the Kingston and Bremerton ferry terminals in the years ahead, part of $280 million in funding for ferry charging stations at docks around Puget Sound. Puget Sound Energy, meanwhile, must beef up electricity reliability on Bainbridge before the island’s ferry terminal can be considered for charging. 
Kitsap Transit, already the operator of the first hybrid-diesel electric ferry on Puget Sound in the M/V Waterman, is planning a fully electric ferry for its Bremerton-Port Orchard route, with charging stations for the boat where it docks. It is also studying the prospect of an all-electric fast ferry hydrofoil to Seattle. 
A plus to energy storage facilities, unlike traditional power plants, is they have little in the way of public impacts, advocates say. Hazards do include fires, which are difficult to put out and often require lengthy monitoring to ensure a build-up of gases doesn’t cause explosions. Gibson, of the Arlington microgrid, said the public utilities district partners with the local fire department on frequent training to prepare for such a blaze. 
Battery technology has improved by leaps and bounds in the past decade, driven by the popularity of electric vehicles. There’s not been a “revolution,” said Daniel T. Schwartz, a chemical engineer who is the director of the Clean Energy Institute at the University of Washington, but rather a “really aggressive evolution.” 
Energy storage is not a new concept. The northwest’s legacy of hydro-powered dams and reservoirs demonstrates how energy can be stored before electricity generation — the turning of a turbine — occurs. But lithium-ion batteries provide a new way to store energy. And the technology of the batteries just continues to improve, he said.  
Funding for a new “battery economy,” as Schwartz calls it, got its latest dollop on Wednesday when President Joe Biden announced $2.8 billion in grants from the federal infrastructure act to go for battery manufacturing and processing companies. That includes two in Moses Lake that received $100 million each.   
Battery storage within the country’s power grid is expected to grow substantially in the next decade, at a time when lawmakers in Olympia, as well as Washington D.C., have mandated and provided further incentives for the addition of renewable power sources like solar
But renewables present power companies and utilities a challenge in how they produce electricity — namely their consistency in doing so. At the hottest time of the day, solar, for instance, can overwhelm the power grid. California’s embrace of the technology has led utilities there to resort to dumping the power on other states’ electricity grids.  
Meanwhile, at night, when the sun isn’t shining, it can’t generate electricity, leading to a shortage. 
When you factor in the demand of consumers — with much energy use into the evenings, when solar power decreases — the resulting mathematical curve looks a little like a duck. Hence the nickname it has been given: “The duck curve.” 
So, what to do?
Batteries can be part of the solution. When the grid is humming with plenty of electricity, big banks of lithium-ion batteries can charge up. When the grid is low on power generation, it can draw from the battery supplies.   
In the future, electric vehicles will also help grid energy storage in other ways. For one, car charging can be reversed: a vehicle battery to provide electricity to a home in a power outage, for example. But as battery life in cars declines with age, a secondary use for them after their time within an automobile may be in battery storage, where the performance can be less but still powerful enough to help the energy grid, Schwartz said.
Estimates by the federal Department of Energy expect annual lithium-based stationary energy storage capacity to grow from 1.5 gigawatts in 2020 to 8.5 gigawatts by 2030. 
For the new technology of microgrids and utility-scale batteries, “It’s just a super exciting time,” Schwartz said. 
Part 1: Kitsap County’s power grid is becoming more unreliable and stressed. How does it work, and how will PSE fix it?
Part 2: Will Kitsap County get its own power-generating station? A look at one proposal.
Part 3:  Modernizing the power grid will come at a cost. Ratepayers will endure double-digit increases in 2023
Part 4:  The Navy was concerned about the power grid. Here’s why it stopped a plan to build to build power plants on its Kitsap bases


× How can I help you?