GMP says microgrid battery storage strategy paying off

Green Mountain Power is changing the way your lights go on and off by putting up storage batteries all over Vermont.
Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 9:29 AM EDT
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COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - Green Mountain Power says it’s changing the traditional electric grid to focus on storing and spending energy through batteries across the state.

The programs are centered around using Tesla Powerwall batteries in peoples’ homes and large microgrids to pull energy on peak days and create weather-resilient communities. The goal is to buy less dirty energy from the regional grid and combat climate change.

“Over time, as we invest in this and develop it with our customers, we will literally create a Vermont that can withstand all of the impacts of the climate crisis because we have decentralized all aspects of the grid,” said GMP CEO Mari McClure.

A centralized grid has a power plant at the center and energy flows in one direction to homes. In a decentralized grid, McClure says the energy is flowing two ways. It can be stored or pulled and used in a home or sent back out to help other Vermonters. If a break in energy flow happens, the power stays on by pulling from the battery storage.

“When the greater grid is affected by weather, the local resilient efforts can keep everyone safe, warm, powered up,” said McClure.

The program has been running for a few years and McClure says they’re finding success. There are more than 4,000 Powerwalls in Vermont homes. In 2021, McClure says more than $3 million was saved by GMP customers and one push in 2022 saved nearly $1.5 million.

But McClure says they need to go faster and more people have to get onboard. She says GMP has been in contact with Liberty Utilities in New Hampshire about program rollouts, as well as utilities out in Wyoming and Idaho. In Vermont, GMP is in the planning process for microgrids in Brattleboro, Rochester, and Grafton.

McClure sees it as a race against the climate clock, but she has chosen solar, wind, and hydropower combined with storage technology as her vehicle of choice in that race. “We believe it now and we believe it into the future,” said McClure.

Kevin Thorley, a homeowner, believes in the program and bought into it back in 2020. “Having the batteries here seemed like a reasonable step to take and we also like that they are contributing back to the overall grid stability,” said Thorley. He says he enjoys watching what’s happening with his batteries and his Williston home from the Powerwall’s app. “It’s kind of cool that Vermont is kind of -- we’ll call it the brave little state -- is really ahead of the rest of the country at this point.”

GMP’s home Powerwall programs are maxed out with a waitlist, but they are trying to get bring on more customers.

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