Southern Company gathers to officially open largest battery storage facility in system
A megawatt of stored energy is now available right here in Polk County as part of a Southern Company project in partnership with several companies to test how well electricity might be kept for future use.
An hour-long celebration at the solar facility at Northside Industrial Park in Cedartown with Southern Company officials marked the kickoff of operations of the new battery project.
The system is the largest battery storage research project in the Southern Company system, and was designed with several companies and groups including the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and LG Chem, who provided the lithium-ion battery technol- ogy.
Several speakers from the Southern Company praised the new battery technology as a step forward toward figuring out how to capture the energy generated by renewable resources and save it for future use.
One of those was Rob Manning, EPRI vice president of power delivery and utilization, who pointed out one of the major problems with electric generation for more than a century has been its single purpose of generating power and transmitting it immediately to consumers. With the new battery system in Cedartown, it will provide companies like Southern Company the option of storing some of that capacity and not having to rely solely on traditional sources of power, like using coal or natural gas for generation.
“Our main goal has been to keep that delicate balance between production and supply to consumers,” he said. “The reason we’ve done it that way for more than 100 years is because we’ve never found an efficient way to store electricity.”
The new battery is capable of storing a megawatt of electricity and will distribute it over two hours when needed, providing 500 kilowatts per hour, or enough to power about 500 homes. Then like a cell phone charger with a solar panel, it will reaccumulate electricity for the next time it’s needed.
The battery itself – combined with several metering systems from Georgia Power and the Southern Company, along with a power converter system and a transformer – is not much larger than a metal shipping container. What’s different is the technology packed inside.
LG Chem – who designs batteries for everything from consumer electronics to electric cars – provided the same lithium-ion technology but upscaled for utility usages.
Clifford Black, who was project leader for Southern Company on the battery storage facility, said that getting the battery up and running was just the first step for figuring out how the system will work most efficiently and eventually lead to savings for consumers.
“We believe that cost effective energy storage will play a major role in how we’ll continue to operate the grid,” he said. “There’s some flexibilities that these kinds of energy sources offer. They have the ability to operate at the source and add energy to the grid when needed, and the ability to have voltage control. That makes energy storage systems, especially prototypes like this unique.”
Norrie McKenzie, the Georgia Power vice president of renewable development, told the officials gathered for the ribbon cutting that he hopes the prototype battery will go into production and be put into use at much larger sites, like one in the Butler, Ga., area that is 3,000 acres.
He pointed out that being able to store some of the power generated on sites like that will do much to help lower costs for customers in the future as more renewable resources come onto the grid.
“I hope that in the next few years I’ll be standing in front of a much larger solar facility with a lot more of the batteries behind me and talking about how much more safe, how much more clean and importantly how much more affordable we’re generating electricity in this way,” he said.
Southern Company also used the ceremony as an opportunity to show their appreciation to many executives and local officials involved in the project, including Cedartown city manager Bill Fann and Polk County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tamaka Hudson.
Fann said he was thrilled that the project was wrapping up, and hoped that a proposal from Inman Solar back in July to expand the solar facility will bear fruit.
“We’re excited to see renewable resources as a part of the Industrial Park, and I think it’s noteworthy that it’s the largest battery storage facility in their system,” Fann said.
The Cedartown Planning Commission gave their approval to Inman Solar in moving forward with the proposed expansion during their July session, which would take up more acreage adjacent to the current solar facility and see more than 3,300 panels put up on the site.
Short tours of the facility were given to executives and local officials following the ceremony.
From left: Clifford Black, Southern Company Project Leader, Larry Monroe, Southern Co. Chief Environmental officer, Rob Manning EPRI vice president of power delivery and utilization, Kim Green, Southern Company Chief Operating Officer and Norrie McKenzie, Georgia Power vice president of renewable development, gathered for a photo to officially add the largest battery storage facility to the Southern Company’s power system.
Kim Green, Southern Company Chief Operating Officer and Larry Monroe, Southern Company chief environmental officer, gave Cedartown city manager Bill Fann an award of appreciation for the city’s involvement in the new battery storage facility at the Northside Industrial Park.