In Ver­mont, solar, bat­ter­ies key en­ergy revo­lu­tion

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Rhonda “Honey” Phillips keeps her own cows and gar­den at her small, hill­side homestead, and now is push­ing self-suf­fi­ciency in a more high­tech di­rec­tion. This year, she in­stalled new solar pan­els just down­hill from her mod­est house and hung a Tesla Pow­er­wall backup bat­tery on her base­ment wall, to charge up when it’s sunny and draw down when it isn’t. “My grand­fa­ther used to say, ‘What­ever you can see is what you should be tak­ing care of,’” said Phillips, 57, whose fam­ily has been in Ver­mont since the 1700s. With shorter win­ters and hot­ter tem­per­a­tures in the sum­mer, Phillips is con­vinced she’s see­ing cli­mate change.

In her re­new­able en­ergy project, Phillips got help from the Ver­mont solar com­pany SunCom­mon and Ver­mont’s ma­jor elec­tric com­pany, Green Mountain Power. GMP has been push­ing to be a leader in the search for the Holy Grail of re­new­able en­ergy eco­nom­i­cal bat­ter­ies to store en­ergy from wind farms and solar pan­els for those times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. In an in­ter­view last year, the com­pany’s CEO, Mary Pow­ell, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that bat­ter­ies would be a linch­pin in a newly en­vi­sioned fu­ture for elec­tri­cal en­ergy. They would store solar en­ergy and pro­vide backup power dur­ing out­ages and put elec­tric­ity on the grid at times of peak de­mand.

Evo­lu­tion of en­ergy

All signs are that it’s hap­pen­ing. Phillips is one of 20 GMP cus­tomers to have in­stalled Tesla Pow­er­walls - 70 more are in the queue. GMP charges $37 a month over the life of the bat­tery, or al­lows cus­tomers to buy them up-front for about $7,000 in­stalled. Email and phone mes­sages left for a Tesla spokes­woman drew no im­me­di­ate re­sponse. On a larger scale, GMP in the sum­mer of 2015 put into ser­vice a solar and bat­tery stor­age project on the for­mer Stafford Hill land­fill in Rut­land. The sys­tem has mul­ti­ple pur­poses. Dur­ing long-du­ra­tion power out­ages, it can be used for elec­tric­ity to serve the emer­gency shel­ter that would be set up at the neigh­bor­ing high school, said Dan Mackey, whose job ti­tle at GMP is “in­no­va­tion cham­pion.”

But on an Au­gust af­ter­noon, when air con­di­tion­ers were crank­ing and the sixs­tate New Eng­land re­gion was hit­ting its an­nual peak de­mand, the Stafford Hill project was used to load the bat­ter­ies’ 2.2 megawatts of power onto the grid. GMP was able to avoid its spot power pur­chases dur­ing a time of peak prices. The to­tal sav­ings: $200,000, the com­pany said. “Through care­ful plan­ning, we an­tic­i­pated when the New Eng­land peak load would oc­cur, and worked tire­lessly to en­sure that con­trol tech­nol­ogy would en­able us to draw down the power from Stafford Hill pro­vid­ing sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fit to cus­tomers,” Pow­ell said.

Last week, the com­pany took what it called “the next step in the evo­lu­tion of en­ergy.” It be­came the first util­ity to an­nounce a pack­age of prod­ucts and ser­vices de­signed to en­able a cus­tomer to go off the grid. It used to be anath­ema for util­i­ties to en­cour­age cus­tomers to dis­con­nect from the power grid. But spokes­woman Kristin Carl­son said if the com­pany can re­duce the miles of line it has to run to homes and busi­nesses in re­mote places, it could be a cost sav­ings to ev­ery­one. “This off-grid suite of prod­ucts il­lus­trates very well where en­ergy is go­ing and for us at GMP. We are lead­ing the revo­lu­tion to­ward clean, af­ford­able, lo­cal and highly re­li­able power,” Pow­ell said.—AP

NEW YORK: In this photo pro­vided by the Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory, a vis­i­tor uses the mu­seum’s flag­ship app Ex­plorer which acts like a vir­tual cu­ra­tor, teach­ing vis­i­tors about the sur­pris­ing facts and sto­ries, near the Wil­lamette Me­te­orite at the mu­seum in New York.—AP

MIDDLETOWN SPRINGS: In this photo, Rhonda “Honey” Phillips poses next to a Tesla Pow­er­wall bat­tery and in­verter con­nected to a solar panel ar­ray in her yard in Middletown Springs, Ver­mont. —AP

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