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First of seven planned lithium iron phosphate ESSs will give islands autonomy of power supply

Thu, 03/04/2021 - 10:05 -- Paul Crompton

Power utility Orcas Power and Light Cooperative (OPALCO) has installed a 1MW/2.6MWh lithium iron phosphate battery storage system to supply around four hours of power to 500 homes on the US north coast.

The energy storage system (ESS) on Decatur Island, Washington, is part of a 500kW community solar microgrid set up in 2018, and is the first of seven microgrids OPALCO plans to installon the San Juan Islands by 2040.

The project will help avoid or defer undersea cables, reduce peak load, and reduce peak charges.

Suzanne Olson, OPALCO’s public relations administrator, said the microgrids would decrease their dependency on mainland power.

Power cuts cost the San Juan Islands about $3.5 million per year according to OPALCO.

The next installation will be a 2MW/4MWh battery storage system next to a community solar array on San Juan Island.

The utility plans to build more microgrids near all villages where essential services are located. 

Electric ferries

The cooperative utility, which has 20 islands in its service territory, intends to have enough capacity to also serve Washington’s ferries, which are being converted to a hybrid electric fleet

Washington ferries— the largest ferry system in the US— will be retiring 16 diesel ferries and replacing them with hybrid electric new builds, and converting six others to plug-in hybrid, with recharging capacity at 16 ports.

All hybrid vessels will be able to charge at terminals and some will be capable of operating fully electric, on the shorter routes. The American shipbuilder Vigor Fab LLC has selected Swiss company ABB as the hybrid electric propulsion and high capacity energy storage system (ESS) provider.

ABB has chosen Spear’s flexible modular batteries as the preferred technical solution for the vessels. The installed battery capacity on the Olympus class ships will be approximately 10MWh each. The lithium-ion battery racks and converters will be on shipboard systems while the ESS on port terminals will be able to utilise renewable energy sources.

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