Dominion to test another long duration battery, microgrid capability at Va. State University

By: - November 16, 2023 10:05 am

A rendering of EnerVenue’s metal-hydrogen battery called Energy Storage Vessels that Dominion will pilot. (Courtesy of Dominion).

Dominion Energy Virginia plans to test another long-duration energy battery storage project, this time for the Multi-Purpose Center at Virginia State University.

The use of a long-duration battery is Dominion’s latest step in its testing of the storage technologies, and one that could provide insight on creating microgrids.

“These projects could be game changers for how we store energy and deliver it to our customers,” said Ed Baine, president of Dominion Energy Virginia, in a statement.

The 1.5 megawatt metal-hydrogen battery from EnerVenue has the capability of discharging energy for up to 10 hours at a time and has an estimated 30-year lifespan. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are the predominant type of battery storage technology being used in the country, but they typically discharge energy for up to four hours and are experiencing supply chain issues.

The estimated $14.4 million Dominion project will be installed on the school’s Ettrick campus to supply power to its Multi-Purpose Center that hosts basketball games, concerts and other events. The battery should be in use by the end of 2027. 

According to the utility’s filing with state regulators, the State Corporation Commission, the pilot will test ways to supply electricity to the center when power is lost during a major storm. The pilot will also test isolating the campus building from the grid to form a microgrid that will be energized by the battery as a way to reduce stress on the main network of transmission components.

The federal government sees microgrids as a way to lessen the impact of grid interference because they’re able to operate during repairs of any issues. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity states on its website: “By 2035, we aim for microgrids to represent essential building blocks of the future electricity delivery system to support resilience, decarbonization, and affordability,” 

Other goals of Dominion’s pilot include determining how the battery can be prioritized as backup supply over diesel-generators.

“In this way, a source of clean energy will be utilized to serve the building instead of a more carbon-intensive diesel generator,” stated Sean Stevens, Dominion’s director of electric distribution grid solutions, in the filing.

In September, Dominion asked the SCC in its same filing to test two other long-duration energy storage technologies, one of which can dispatch energy for up to 100 hours. The utility also recently broke ground on a 50-megawatt traditional battery project at Dulles International Airport, and has four other battery storage sites in Powhatan, Hanover, New Kent and Chesterfield counties. Another installation is under development in Sussex County.

Dominion proposes pilot to test longer-lasting battery storage

With concerns over renewable energy generation sources like solar and wind not being able to produce when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, battery storage technology is increasingly  seen as a way to fill in any gaps.

“With longer-duration batteries, we can store energy from renewables for longer periods of time so it’s available when our customers need it the most,” Baine said in his statement. “We’re thrilled to partner with Virginia State University on this cutting-edge project.”

Along with testing how effective the technology is, the battery pilot will be used as a hands-on teaching tool for Virginia State students looking to become energy professionals, according to Dominion’s news release. The school is developing a curriculum for its College of Engineering and Technology that includes the inner workings of battery storage technology.

“Our collaboration with Dominion Energy marks a significant step in advancing sustainable energy solutions,” said Dr. Dawit Haile, dean of VSU’s College of Engineering and Technology. “This partnership offers invaluable hands-on experiences for students and workforce development while reinforcing our commitment to innovative research in clean energy technologies. We’re thrilled to offer transformative learning experiences and inspire the next generation of STEM leaders.”


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Charlie Paullin
Charlie Paullin

Charles Paullin covers energy and environment for the Mercury. He previously worked for Northern Virginia Daily in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and for the New Britain Herald in central Connecticut. An Alexandria native, Charles graduated from the University of Hartford initially wanting to cover sports. He's received several Virginia Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, local government and state politics.