UMass awarded $1.1 Million to work with Tesla Energy to build Large Battery Storage System

By Alvin Buyinza

(Collegian file photo)

On Dec. 7, a $1.1 million state grant was awarded to the University of Massachusetts by the Advancing Commonwealth Energy Storage Project to work with Tesla Energy to build a large battery at the Central Heating Plant on the west side of campus.

The grant is part of a statewide project which aims to improve the energy storage market in Massachusetts, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

According to UMass News and Media Relations, Gov. Charlie Baker announced the award at an event in Marlborough.

“The development and deployment of energy storage projects will be vital to the Commonwealth’s ability to continue leading the nation in energy efficiency,” Baker stated at the event. “Funding these storage projects is an investment in our energy portfolio that will reduce costs for ratepayers and help create a clean and resilient energy future.”

Tesla Energy, with additional help from the UMass Campus Energy Extension, plans to build and design a one megawatt/four megawatt-hour lithium ion battery storage system to be built across the campus power plant, according to a press release from the University. The main goal of the project is to reduce the demand of high energy and costs on campus.

As stated in the UMass 2016 Electricity Data by Building Reports, the University used 140,558,629 kilowatts per hour of energy – an overall 10.5 percent increase from 2012.

Currently, UMass obtains 15 megawatts of energy from cogeneration – the use of steam or other types of heat that is a by-product of electric power – at the Central Heating Plant and five megawatts from solar voltaic generation. One of the battery storage systems main functions is to reduce the need to purchase energy outside the power grid and balance constraints on the heating plant and solar arrays.

The battery system will also allow for energy to continue running on campus without the need of an electrical power system.

The University plans to charge the battery system during periods of low demand of energy; the battery will be discharged during periods of high demand, such as early evening hours during the winter and middle to late afternoon during the summer. According to the press release, the battery will help replace less energy efficient generators, reduce greenhouse gas emission and lower costs.

The UMass Amherst Physical Plant plans to operate the battery system while UMass CEE will provide operations analysis and research support.

In a statement from UMass News and Media Relations, Raymond E. Jackson said, “We’re very excited to be able to integrate a one megawatt lithium ion battery into our utility infrastructure on campus.”

“This project will help us optimize our on-campus renewable energy generation, increase resiliency and further diversify our utility portfolio,” Jackson continued.

In addition, the battery storage system will also provide power generation optimization and will serve as a research site for clean energy experts and students.

The entirety of the project is estimated to take 15 years. In order to meet all of its research goals, Tesla Energy plans to provide $80,000 worth of education initiatives for staff and students such as paid internships, career mentorships, lectures and curriculum designed around solar and energy stronger.

Shane R. Conklin, associate vice chancellor for facilities and campus services, said in a statement from UMass News and Media Relations, “This project is an excellent example of how collaboration between academic research and facilities operations increases benefits to the campus and our students.”

According the UMass website, the University has been able to reduce its carbon footprints by 27 percent since 2002.

Alvin Buyinza can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abuyinza_news.