National Grid amps up solar program in Massachusetts

By Amie O'Hearn

Remember that 1970’s song, “The Age of Aquarius?” Well, like the band, The Fifth Dimension, who made the tune popular, extoling the virtues of letting the sun shine in, National Grid is at it again.

National Grid has already built 21 MW of company-owned solar generation throughout Massachusetts during Solar Phase I and II. Looking ahead to Phase III, it recently submitted a proposal to the Department of Public Utilities to add an additional 14 MW to its portfolio. In addition to developing its own solar installations, the company has connected more than 520 MW of customer-owned solar in the state.

“We are thrilled to continue our leadership role in developing this vital, clean energy source and expand concepts from our prior work in solar generation, especially as we explore new technologies,” said Carlos Nouel, vice president, New Energy Solutions at National Grid.  “Advancing solar and other renewable energy sources is in our DNA at National Grid. It’s an integral part of meeting customers’ needs in the 21st century.”  He added, “As we work toward modernizing our system, we want our electricity distribution system to be an innovation playground that ultimately benefits our customers.”

Over the past few years, National Grid has strategically placed solar installations across the Commonwealth in order to learn how harnessing the power of the sun can ease peak demand on electric infrastructure. Simultaneously, it has also begun testing the true mettle of solar energy by experimenting with its technological capabilities.  As National Grid charts its solar course, there are plans to add sun-tracking systems, solar canopies, and additional energy storage to existing and planned installations.

Battery Storage

Integrating battery storage with renewables is undoubtedly one of the most exciting technologies that will be tested during Phase III of National Grid’s solar program. If approved, the large batteries (pictured below) will be added onto existing solar installations to harness the power of the sun during the day for use while the sun is not shining. The company is in the midst of installing its second solar battery storage system at its 605kW facility in Everett. National Grid has one in place at its 1.5MW solar facility in Shirley, Mass., making it the first investor-owned utility in the region to integrate energy storage with its renewables program.

National Grid is also interconnecting a wind battery storage system on a windmill in Worcester at Holy Name High School.

Last month, the Baker-Polito Administration issued a report which examines the benefits of adding energy storage to the state’s energy portfolio. The administration anticipates that by implementing projects such as the ones like National Grid will, there is potential to save Massachusetts taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, lessen the impacts of peak demand on the state’s energy infrastructure, and reduce carbon emissions by better integrating renewable resources into Massachusetts’ energy infrastructure.

A Tesla Lithium-Ion battery storage system being installed at the National Grid solar site in Shirley, Mass.

A Tesla Lithium-Ion battery storage system being installed at the National Grid solar site in Shirley, Mass.

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