ENGIE, HG&E Team on Solar Energy Storage Project

Electricity from a 5.76-MW solar farm in Massachusetts will be stored in an adjacent energy storage system as part of a plan announced October 4 by ENGIE North America (ENGIE NA) and Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E). The project is part of Massachusetts’ Peak Demand Management Program.

HG&E, which received a $475,000 grant from the state to help with the project, will use the storage system to reduce its utility capacity costs as it supports intermittent solar energy on its distribution network. HG&E in a news release said its customers “will benefit from improved power quality and reliability,” as the stored power from Mt. Tom will be used during periods of peak load on HG&E’s regional electricity grid.

Green Charge, a subsidiary of ENGIE NA, will operate the 3-MW storage system at Mt. Tom Solar, a solar farm that began operation in January 2017 adjacent to the shuttered Mt. Tom Power Station in Holyoke, a coal-fired power plant that closed in December 2014. Green Charge expects to bring the storage system online in April 2018.

“Holyoke is a shining example of what is possible in Massachusetts,” Vic Shao, CEO and founder of Santa Clara, California-based Green Charge, told POWER. “The table is set for utility scale solar and energy storage given the state support for renewable energy.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who is pushing energy efficiency programs as a goal of his administration, said “Massachusetts is proud to be a national leader in energy efficiency programs that reduce overall consumption and we are committed to continuing our work to improve energy costs disproportionately affected by times of peak demand. The demonstration projects funded through these grants will strengthen our innovation economy and provide the Commonwealth with a roadmap for reducing our most expensive energy loads and securing our energy future.” The grant from the state’s Department of Energy Resources is part of a $15 million commitment for clean and energy efficient programs announced by Baker in February of this year.

Jim Lavelle, HG&E’s manager, said “We are pleased to work with ENGIE on the Mt. Tom energy storage project, which will produce peak demand and asset management benefits that will help HG&E stabilize electric rates over the long term. This project also adds a measure of resiliency to our local grid, helping us to better serve our customers.”

“Solar and energy storage are keys to a low-carbon, low-cost energy future,” said Frank Demaille, president and CEO of ENGIE NA. “HG&E is taking the lead by moving forward proactively to deploy what we see as the future for the energy industry.”

The Mt. Tom solar farm, which includes more than 17,000 solar panels, covers 22 acres along the Connecticut River. It took just more than three months to enter service after a groundbreaking for the farm in September 2016.

The Mt. Tom Power Station at the site began operating in 1960. GDF SUEZ Energy North America, which changed its name to ENGIE in June 2016, owned the plant, but starting in 2009 Mt. Tom was only operated at times of high power demand until it closed at the end of 2014. At the time, GDF SUEZ said it was not profitable to continue operations as coal-fired power could not compete with lower-cost natural gas-fired generation.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor. (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine)