Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Commerce announced that $14.3 million in smart grid grants have been awarded to help utilities utilize intermittent renewable sources such as solar and wind power more efficiently. Three grants were awarded to Snohomish County PUD: $7.3 million; Puget Sound Energy: $3.8 million; and Avista Corp.: $3.2 million – which they matched to buy different battery systems.

“This is about storing solar energy to power our lights even on cloudy days,” Inslee said. “We’re using our Clean Energy Fund to position Washington state as a leader in energy storage and work with utilities to develop technologies and strategies that will move the market for renewables forward.”

Inslee said the grants, which help support his Executive Order 14-04: Washington Carbon Pollution Reduction and Clean Energy Action, will put Washington at the cutting edge of managing energy grids for the new power-generating economy.

“Washington state is home to a vibrant ecosystem of forward-thinking utilities, emerging technology companies and research institutions required to drive the grid-scale storage industry forward,” said state Department of Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “Our state’s Clean Energy Fund investments are helping galvanize the broad public-private collaboration necessary to deliver long-term value for taxpayers and for the customers who rely on utilities to deliver cleaner, more efficient and reliable power from renewable energy sources.“

To support these projects, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have worked with Commerce, the utilities, technology companies and university researchers to develop descriptions of the ways that energy storage can increase renewable energy use and improve grid efficiency and resilience. The utilities will consult these descriptions, called use cases, as they implement their individual projects.

PNNL is also expected to provide analytical and technical support for the projects. PNNL will conduct benefits analysis, and compile field data needed for use cases that will help utilities and regulators nation-wide understand the long-term benefits of new technologies.

Researchers will also design plans for acceptance testing and strengthen control strategies so utilities and grid operators can efficiently deploy energy storage. PNNL will collaborate with Washington State University to develop a control system for one of the project’s batteries and work with the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute to educate stakeholders on project benefits.

The smart grid grants were announced at UniEnergy, a Mukilteo company that makes an advanced version of a fluid battery, based on the metal vanadium, in an aqueous solution. The grants could bring in more revenue for the 40-person business and could also mean greener energy for everyone in who uses these utilities.

“Electricity is not like most goods and services, you can’t stick it in a warehouse and come back four weeks later and get some,” Jesse Berst, managing director of Global Smart Energy, which publishes, said. “You have to produce exactly what you need at every instant, and that produces a difficult balance of supply and demand… If you can create effective storage, you can store power up with its surging, and then use it later.”

Clean Energy Fund Smart Grid Grants

Snohomish County PUD: $7.3 million
Benefits: (1) Battery energy storage system. 1.0 MW/0.50 MWh lithium-ion batteries, two Parker PCS assemblies and Energy integration software. (2) UET 2 MW/6.4 MWh Vanadium Flow battery system installed with Energy software.
Use Cases: (1) Energy shifting; (2) Provide grid flexibility; (3) Improve distribution systems efficiency; and (4) Optimal utilization of energy storage.
Puget Sound Energy: $3.8 million
Benefits: Single battery energy storage system. BYD 2 MW/4.4 MWh lithium iron phosphate battery.
Use Cases: (1) Energy shifting; (2) Provide grid flexibility; (3) Improve distribution systems efficiency; (4) Outage management of critical loads; and (5) Optimal utilization of energy storage.
Avista Corporation: $3.2 million
Benefits: UET 1.0 MW/3.2 MWh Vanadium Flow battery
Use Cases: (1) Energy shifting; (2) Provide grid flexibility; (3) Improve distribution systems efficiency; (4) enhanced voltage control; (5) Grid-connected and islanded micro-grid operations; and (6) Optimal utilization of energy storage.