PNM Solar Storage System a 'First' [Albuquerque Journal, N.M.]
(Albuquerque Journal (NM) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 20--A small solar plant and its experimental battery storage system went live in Albuquerque on Monday in what Public Service Company of New Mexico said was the first solar storage installation in the country to be fully integrated with a utility's power grid.
Without a storage component, renewable energy is a limited resource that has to be backed up by traditional generation, such as coal- and gas-fired power plants, PNM president and CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn said.
"Although this technology is in its early integration stage and additional research and development is needed, the PNM Prosperity Energy Storage Project is a significant first step toward making renewable energy reliable energy," she said.
The $8.7 million demonstration project, located near Mesa del Sol south of the airport, is the first of 16 smart grid projects partially funded by federal stimulus funds to become fully operational.
The storage system consists of 1,280 advanced leadacid batteries housed inside eight climate-controlled containers. It can store about 250 kilowatts, or half of the 500 kilowatts of power generated by an adjacent 2,158-panel solar array constructed as part of the project. The stored electricity is enough to power about 150 homes for two hours.
The storage system can automatically "smooth" the output of the solar panels, PNM officials said. For example, when clouds cast shadows on the solar array, the battery and smart grid system work in tandem to instantaneously provide energy to fill the gap created by the clouds and feed that electricity into the system.
The system could store energy indefinitely. But, PNM spokesman Frederick Bermudez said, "Ideally, you store the power in the morning and early afternoon and then dispatch it that same day when peak demand is up." PNM engineer Steve Willard said the goal over the next two years is to test and demonstrate the benefits of the system.
"We'll constantly collect data and share our findings with the industry worldwide to help advance ... storage technology," he said.
PNM contributed $6 million to the project, which was part of the company's 2010 renewable energy procurement plan approved by the Public Regulation Commission. The company will seek to recover its costs through a renewable energy rider expected to be filed in November.
The U.S. Department of Energy threw in $2.3 million in federal stimulus money.
The project's combination of battery storage and photovoltaic power involves extensive smart grid research and development with the Electric Power Research Institute, East Penn Manufacturing Co., Northern New Mexico College, Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico, according to PNM.
Other New Mexico contributors were Albuquerquebased Schott Solar, which manufactured the photovoltaic panels, and Cameron Swinerton and Positive Energy of Santa Fe, which constructed the array.
The project's origins date back to 2008 when PNM and the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute started planning a way to demonstrate smart grid technology in PNM's distribution system.
The following year, the DOE announced a Smart Grid Storage Demonstration Program to be supported with stimulus funds.
"We just changed the focus and submitted a proposal to add storage to our project," Bermudez said.
Sen. Jef f Bi nga ma n, D-N.M., provided key support for the project, he said.
The company is planning a dedication ceremony for media and invited guests Saturday.
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