BPL chief hails $15m storage ‘game changer’


Tribune Business Reporter


Bahamas Power & Light’s (BPL) chief executive yesterday hailed its planned $15m battery storage facility as a “game changer” for energy costs, efficiency and supply reliability.

Whitney Heastie said the Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) that will be built at BPL’s Blue Hills power station will enable the state-owned utility to transfer New Providence’s energy load demand to Clifton Pier power station, whose engines use cheaper fuel.

He added that the 25-27 megawatt (MW) facility, to be built by Finnish energy conglomerate, Wartsila, will thus reduce the strain for Blue Hills power station’s gas turbines, and said: “This 25 MW battery energy storage system is going to be a game changer for BPL.”

The move will significantly reduce or eliminate the need for BPL to have spinning reserves, or what is classified as generation capacity that is online but not loaded, as the BESS system will respond within ten minutes to compensate for any generation or transmission outages on New Providence.

As a result, Mr Heastie said BPL will be equipped with more “cost effective” energy back-up and become “more efficient” once the battery energy storage system is completed and is online come July 2022. It will be housed at the 40 MW Aggreko site at the Blue Hills power station.

BPL’s chief executive added: “Often we’re having to run engines at the Blue Hills power station just to hold a voltage that supports the eastern and the southern end of the island. But with the battery energy storage system, we are now able to not have to run those less efficient engines at Blue Hills power station.

“We can then transfer our load from the Blue Hills power station, where we’re running gas turbines, to the Clifton Pier power station where we have the more efficient engines that are burning the much cheaper fuel.”

Dr Donovan Moxey, BPL’s chairman, added: “Whenever there’s an outage or loss of generation, typically we have a drop and we tend to lose persons with respect to being on the grid. That’s why people’s electricity goes off.

“With this battery technology we will now be able to hold those particular generation loads, or the loads that are required for generation, until we can get another asset in place. So our customers should not feel any issues with the loss of generation within our network.”

Wartsila, which is also supplying the 225 MW of new generation capacity for New Providence’s new power plant, was chosen to implement the BESS project after a selection process that involved the Ministry of Finance and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). It is already on-site preparing to begin construction in around two months’ time.

Describing the benefits from the BESS system, BPL said the energy storage it provides will “respond within milliseconds” should a generation asset go down unexpectedly by discharging 25 MW of power into the grid for at least 30 minutes.

Besides helping to keep the lights on, BPL said the main advantages provided by BESS and its spinning reserve will be grid stability; decreased fuel consumption; reduced emissions; decreased run-time hours of engines; additional capacity; and operational and maintenance savings.

Wärtsilä has been hired to build a system that maintains 25MW and 27MW hours, with 14000MWh annual throughput. The system will use 24 inverters, six inverter transformers and 24 Gridsolv Quantums (Battery Enclosures) at the beginning of its life.

Then, in the fifth year, the system is augmented by eight racks and two inverters plus one transformer on the AC side. In addition to the BESS, the project includes the the engineering services and associated equipment required to integrate the existing Wärtsilä engines and the new BESS into the controls platform.

Dr Moxey said BPL was seeking to increase its margins, and better manage costs, through improvements in efficiencies such as the BESS system. The utility was seeking to ensure its “margin stays as wide as it possibly can over the long term” given that its rates will soon be regulated by the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA), and “Bahamians will benefit from having lower rates or not having to have to go to URCA for us to raise the rates”.

“That’s one of the reasons why, too, we’re also wanting to engage in a PPA (power purchase agreement) deal. Because within a PPA arrangement, you actually fix generation costs for a long time,” Dr Moxey said in reference to continued negotiations with Shell North America for the latter to provide base load generation in New Providence.

“So when we talk about cost control, that’s all a part of our strategy in making sure that we keep rates as low as we possibly can, and then keep them low for as long as we possibly can, through really becoming more efficient in how we run the organisation, and more cost effective with respect to how we spend the maintenance dollars, which again leads to exactly what we’ve been talking about today with respect to the use of that battery technology and not having to use and burn money on engines and maintain those engines.”

Dr Moxey added: “The other thing that this particular initiative addresses is really grid stability in order for us to be able to better support renewable energy, in particular roof-top solar within New Providence.


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