A very small test (96 customers) of a virtual power plant from home batteries in New Hampshire was a success, say state regulators, and with any luck Liberty Utilities will expand it.
“Liberty Utilities in November released a report finding that the first phase of its battery storage pilot, in which the utility provided batteries to 96 homes, yielded significant cost savings for participants and effectively discharged power into the grid during periods of peak demand,” reports Energy News Network (whole story is here). “The report released late last year looks at the first 21 months of phase one and concludes it exceeded the targets set for moving on to the second phase. On average, participants saved 33% on their monthly electricity bills and the system was 79% accurate in discharging during peak demand. Despite these results, it is uncertain when — or if — Liberty will roll out plans for the second phase of the pilot.”
That’s not a big surprise, since similar programs – in which a host of individual batteries are partly charged or discharged by a central software system to stabilize the grid or balance power loads, as an inexpensive alternative to new power plants – have already saved money in Vermont, where the utility has been expanding them for a couple of years. Big projects are being developed in several other states, notably California, where Tesla is part of the action.
Still, it’s not trivial to connect a whole host of batteries so they can operate as a single entity, so test runs are necessary. And it’s especially not trivial in New Hampshire, where legislators and regulators are unenthusiastic (at best) about any energy technology that wasn’t already established during the Reagan administration.