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Efforts to make solar, wind power more reliable receive funding

Washington state is known for its leading-edge efforts in developing affordable, renewable energy. But expanding use of wind and solar sources will require new smart grid technologies that allow utilities to efficiently capture, store and distribute that energy.

That’s according to Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington State Department of Commerce, which announced this past Tuesday more than $14 million in smart grid matching grants from the Clean Energy Fund will help Avista Corp., Puget Sound Energy and Snohomish PUD better integrate power that is generated from intermittent renewable sources such as wind and solar, into the state’s electrical grid.

“This is about storing solar energy to power our lights even on cloudy days,” Inslee said.

“We’re using our Clean Energy Fund to position Washington state as a leader in energy storage and work with utilities to develop technologies and strategies that will move the market for renewables forward.”

The utility-led projects will develop and validate “use cases,” combining energy storage and information technology solutions.

The goal is to promote widespread deployment of these technologies and create a power grid that is more efficient, flexible, resilient, greener from generation to consumer and better able to withstand the consequences of climate change.

Developing a new state program to support renewable energy and energy efficiency technology innovation in the public and private sectors is a key directive in Inslee’s Climate Executive Order. The governor’s Clean Energy Fund received $40 million from the legislature to expand Washington’s clean energy economy.

The total cost for the three smart grid demonstration projects is $35.3 million, including more than $21 million in non-state funds.

“Today’s investment in the exciting possibilities of battery storage technology represents a significant step forward in creating our energy future,” said Avista Vice President of Energy Delivery Don Kopczynski. “The batteries we’ll test will store power when the wind blows and distribute it when we need it, regardless of weather conditions.”

To support these projects, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have worked with the Department of Commerce, the utilities, technology companies and university researchers to develop descriptions of the ways that energy storage can increase renewable energy use and improve grid efficiency and resilience. The utilities will consult these descriptions, called “use cases,” as they implement their individual projects.

PNNL is also expected to provide analytical and technical support for the projects. PNNL will conduct benefits analysis, and compile field data needed for use cases that will help utilities and regulators nation-wide understand the long-term benefits of new technologies.

Researchers will also design plans for acceptance testing and strengthen control strategies so utilities and grid operators can efficiently deploy energy storage. PNNL will collaborate with Washington State University to develop a control system for one of the project’s batteries and work with the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute to educate stakeholders on project benefits.

“As economic and personal losses from electricity outages due to severe weather mount each year, improving resiliency has taken on an increasing degree of urgency,” said Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

“We will continue working closely with our public and private partners to help communities be better prepared for climate change and keep the nation moving toward a more resilient, efficient and secure energy infrastructure.”

Snohomish County PUD will receive $7.3 million in grants. Puget Sound Energy will receive $3.8 million and Avista Corporation will receive $3.2 million.

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