Rhode Island’s First Battery Storage Facility Set to Open in Burrillville
February 21, 2022
BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — A new utility-scale battery storage facility, the first of its kind in the state, is expected to come online here this spring, giving local ratepayers a minor boost.
The project is a collaboration between the Pascoag Utility District and energy storage developer Agilitas Energy, an energy storage company based in Massachusetts. After completion, the site will store 3 megawatts of power from which the utility district can draw during peak load times.
The project occupies 1,600 square feet in the back of a parking lot of an industrial park just off South Main Street. Local utility officials expect it to increase the reliability of the local grid that Pascoag Utility District manages, while minimizing the financial impact to ratepayers.
“For us it became a really good cost-effective solution,” said Pascoag Utility District general manager Mike Kirkwood.
Pascoag Utility District has 4,800 ratepayers in Harrisville and Pascoag. The electricity is fed into the villages from two 5-mile-long feeder lines — a main line and an additional line for backup in case the main line fails — from a National Grid substation in Nasonville to a district-owned grid in Pascoag.
“We don’t generate much of our own power,” said Kirkwood. “We rely on contracts with outside facilities all over New England.”
The two lines only have a capacity of 13.8 kilovolts each, which equals just above 13 kilowatts. During the hot summer months, when residents are cranking up the air conditioning, the district can come close to overwhelming the maximum capacity on the feeder lines.
Running new power lines with additional wiring for backup would cost between $6 million and $12 million, according to an impact study performed by National Grid in 2019. On top of that, no matter what the district decided to do, it would have had to commit $1.5 million of its own funds to pay for upgrades at the substation in Nasonville.
“I think it is a great model for other systems,” said Jeff Perry, vice president of asset management for Agilitas. “It’s a really good opportunity for folks to save some money and at the same time solve some reliability problems.”
Negotiations between the two entities started in 2019. Agilitas Energy fronted the cost for the battery, choosing to recoup its investment on the back end. The district should see cheaper power from lower peak load times and lower transmission costs that will save ratepayers in the long run. Agilitas, in exchange for fronting the capital for the battery, agreed to split the savings with the district in perpetuity, although the savings will only last as long as the battery, estimated to be about 15 years.
“It’s what I call the no-regrets mode for the municipality,” said Perry. “We said we’re willing to take the risk on development and fund the entire project, and in return we’ll share the savings.”
Pascoag Utility District received a $1.4 million loan from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank and an additional $250,000 grant from the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources to pay off the cost of the substation upgrades.
Unlike most batteries, the Pascoag battery will not be linked directly to a solar farm. According to Kirkwood, developers haven’t found a suitable site in town for a development. “The savings alone on transmission is enough to pay for it, I think,” said Kirkwood.
The facility is scheduled to be completed and operational starting in June.