Colorado electric co-op rolls out ‘community battery’ program
SoCore Energy, a Chicago based subsidiary of California utility holding company Edison International, sees electric cooperatives as growing market for energy storage.
Co-ops typically have large territories and relatively few customers, so traditional transmission and distribution projects can be very costly with only a small number of customers to absorb those costs.
“Investments in DERs and, increasingly energy storage, help co-ops’ investment planning,” SoCore spokesman Kevin Phelan told Utility Dive. The cost per transmission mile tends to be higher for co-ops, he said. As the cost of storage declines, that creates opportunities.
SoCore began exploring the co-op storage market about a year ago through a relationship with NRTC, an organization that supports technology adoption and development for co-ops.
In February, SoCore and NRTC collaborated and won a solicitation to build solar facilities totaling 13 MW for Dairyland Power Cooperative. More recently, SoCore has seen a shift among coops when it comes to energy storage. About 12 or 18 months ago, co-ops didn’t want to talk about storage; now the vast majority bring it up themselves, Phelan said.
Another indication of the changing market can be seen in Minnesota where Connexus Energy, that state’s largest electric cooperative announced plans in July to build a 20 MW, 40 MWh storage system that would be the largest in the state. The storage system would be collocated with three solar power plants totaling 10 MW.
In the Colorado project, United Power has adapted the community solar concept to the demand side of the equation with what its community battery program.
Like a community solar program, customers subscribe to the program. But instead of getting a credit for power generated, they get a credit to offset their peak demand. The program is open to anyone, but it mostly aimed at commercial and industrial customers, Jerry Marizza, project manager at United Power, told Utility Dive.