(June 12, 2020)
A pilot project from Austin Energy aims to test how to integrate distributed energy resources most effectively into the grid. The Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar Photovoltaics program, known as Austin SHINES, is investigating the options for connecting rooftop solar and battery storage to the utility’s network.
The project includes $11.5 million of investments in a combination of utility scale energy storage systems, commercial solar panels, and residential rooftop solar. Additionally, Austin SHINES is making use of a management system for integrating DERs into the grid, and real-time data to assist with the assessment of future energy demand.
The utility-scale part of the project involves a 2.5 megawatt community solar farm and two 1.5 megawatt battery storage facilities. Three storage sites make up the commercial DER part, comprising one with a capacity of 18 kilowatt/36 kilowatt hours lithium battery storage, and two with 72 kilowatt/144 kilowatt hours. Residential storage at six properties, each with a capacity of 10 kilowatt hours, are also being studied.
Another critical part of the project looks at how to link electric vehicles (EVs) with the grid. Last December, research published by Navigant estimated that grid services related to EVs could generate $1.4 billion in revenue across the United States by 2030. The researchers pointed out that advanced plans exist to carry out managed charging, or automatically charging EVs at times during the day when energy demand is at its lowest.
However, one major challenge is to examine how energy stored in EVs could be returned to the grid if needed without causing long-term damage to EV batteries and problems for local grid capacity.