By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
GRAND Bahama Power Company is investing $8 million in constructing a battery storage facility before year-end, as it moves to introduce utility-scale solar and other renewable energies.
The utility monopoly, in response to Tribune Business's questions, said construction of the facility - capable of storing up to 8 Mega Watts (MW) of energy - would begin this summer at its Peel Street headquarters.
While GB Power's current 98 MW generation capacity exceeds the island's peak night-time demand of 60-69 MW, it plans to use the battery storage facility to "stabilise frequency variations" caused by fluctuating loads as well as inconsistent solar provision. "The battery storage will be located at our Peel Street generation facility," GB Power told this newspaper via e-mail. "Initially we will install a system that can store 8 MW hours of electricity. The total cost of the project is $8 million.
"GB Power's night- time peak ranges from 60 to 69 MW for a three-hour period. Currently, GB Power has a generating capacity of 98 MW. Construction is slated to begin in the summer with the project being completed by the end of the year.
"Whilst the battery system can help with night-time load, we will also use it to help stabilise frequency variations caused both by intermittent solar generation and fluctuating loads already on the island."
GB Power's move to lay the foundation for utility-scale solar power and other renewable energies, and their introduction into the island's electricity grid, coincides with the arrival of Dave McGregor as its new president and chief executive.
Mr McGregor, most-recently vice-president of asset management for Emera Caribbean, GB Power's parent, he oversaw generation and transmission and distribution (T&D) investments in Barbados, Dominica and Grand Bahama.
During four years with the Emera-owned Barbados Light and Power, Mr McGregor led the design, construction and commissioning of a 10 MW Solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, a 5 MW Tesla battery storage system, and supported the planning and permitting for a 10 MW wind project that will start construction this year.
GB Power declined to say how much of its generation needs can be met through renewable energies, but added: "GB Power commissioned a renewable energy study to assess how much renewable energy could be safely and reliably be integrated on to GB Power's grid.
"General Electric, who completed the study in late 2017, will be on island to discuss the findings with GB Power in mid-March, and we look forward to sharing the scope of the renewable energy future for the island shortly thereafter.
"Based on studies to-date, solar and wind are the most viable options of renewable that can be integrated to GB Power's grid. We await the recommendations of the study to confirm the amount of penetration for each."
GB Power is also moving to introduce solar power on a smaller, less-than-island-wide scale, with plans to launch the island's first microgrid on Water Cay - a venture that could become the model, or prototype, for providing power to outlying cays and small, far-flung communities in rural Grand Bahama.
With around 12 homes served on Water Cay, GB Power said: "We are considering this model for other outlying cays and other small communities. One of the advantages of a microgrid concept such as this is the ability to get smaller pockets of customers energised following a major storm like Matthew.
"Solar microgrids are valuable depending on the profile of the community. As Grand Bahama peaks between 8pm-10pm there would be a need for a supporting battery solution that can store the energy generated by the solar panels for use at night. We are currently reviewing opportunities in the East End."
GB Power added that it had no current plans to revisit the importation of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) into its fuel supply mix, emphasising that the economics did not make sense with global oil prices where they are.
"While the approval remains in place, the use of CNG, or indeed LNG, for Grand Bahama Power makes the most sense when it can undercut the cost of oil that we use for generating electricity. That is currently not the case," it explained.