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Oregon Utility Tests Home Batteries as a Grid Storage Resource

The biggest utility in Oregon is launching a test to see if it can turn home batteries into an energy storage resource for the centralized grid.

Last week, Portland General Electric said it had received regulatory approval “to link up 525 homes with solar-storage systems into a controllable fleet, often referred to as a virtual power plant,” Greentech Media reports. “The five-year pilot will study how to optimize the use of these batteries for the grid, while ensuring the customers get what they want out of participating.”

All those batteries together will only provide four megawatts of capacity. But the project “could lay the groundwork for expansion under PGE’s ongoing grid modernization plan, which envisions around 200 megawatts of ‘distributed flexibility’ to balance supply and demand,” Greentech says.

“This is part of our overall efforts to really understand distributed resources on our system,” said Andy Macklin, PGE’s director of smart cities and grid products. “We’re looking at a decarbonized future. As we add renewables to our system aggressively, we need a flexible distribution system where customers are excited to bring some of their flexibility to the system to help balance those renewables.”

The pilot will test a system that is still a “new grid practice,” Greentech explains. Programs in place in other states “use an event-based demand response paradigm: On special occasions, the utility tells the batteries to turn down customers’ grid consumption. 

In Oregon, by contrast, “the utility will take complete control of customer batteries and use them for a range of roles including frequency response, volt/VAR control, generation capacity, energy arbitrage, and distribution grid upgrade deferral.” Customers will be compensated in one of three ways: households that already own batteries will receive a monthly credit on their bills; customers in three test neighbourhoods will receive larger reimbursements for helping to cluster storage in one part of the grid; and low- to moderate-income households will receive a US$5,000 rebate to buy a battery and participate in the program.

Greentech Media has more details on the Portland General Electric virtual power plant pilot here.