In-home batteries like Tesla’s Powerwall are usually thought of as an accompaniment for solar panels – charge them up during the day, use the power after the sun sets – but that’s not their only use.
In an interesting development that would be the first of its kind in New Hampshire, Liberty Utilities wants to subsidize 300 of the batteries in the town of Lebanon and use them to shift customer usage away from peak times – charge them when overall usage of electricity is low and discharge them when its high – whether or not the homes have solar panels. If it works, they’d expand it to 1,000 customers.
The Valley News has a story right here.
The utility’s desire is avoid spending half a million bucks upgrading a substation and also to buy less electricity at peak times, which can be very expensive. As part of their application to the state Public Utilities Commission, they would institute some time-of-day pricing which doesn’t generally exist in New Hampshire – On Peak (8am to 2pm), Off Peak (7pm to 8am) and Critical Peak (2pm-7pm). The pilot project would also purchase a whole-house generator in case of power outages, since Powerwalls, which store a reported 13.5 kWh, can power a home for only one day, at most.
Opponents say they fear that letting the utility do this will quash competition because they’ll undercut independent installers and thus stifle competition. This is often a concern when utilities seek to own and operate renewable energy facilities – there’s a legitimate fear that such moves are actually sneaky ways to shore up the existing business. Liberty Utilities rather than the homeowner would own the battery, which also raises some concerns.
Still, this is the sort of non-traditional approach to providing electricity that we need to be exploring if we’re going to make a 21st-century grid that can serve our needs without polluting everything – and without building new pipelines and power lines.
Across the Connecticut River in Vermont, Green Mountain Power has had a similar program operating for a while.