Regulators approve Dominion battery pilots as interest in energy storage grows

The State Corporation Commission
The State Corporation Commission seal. Legislation working its way through the General Assembly would establish a state-run health insurance marketplace through a new division within the SCC. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

As the General Assembly shows an increasing interest in bulking up Virginia’s energy storage capacity, the State Corporation Commission has signed off on three pilot projects proposed by Dominion Energy to explore the potential batteries have to transform the electric grid.

In an order dated Feb. 14, the SCC approved all three pilots and found that their costs were reasonable and prudent, although it cautioned that its approval “does not guarantee approval of any future” battery energy storage system. 

“Any future application must be found reasonable under the particular statutory requirements relevant to such request,” the commission wrote.

The largest of the three pilots, at a cost of $26 million, will place two battery storage systems at the Scott Solar Facility in Powhatan to explore how the two technologies can be paired to further the transition toward a more renewable energy-dependent grid. 

Storage has been touted as an important component of greener grids because of its potential to overcome the fundamental problem of renewable generation: the intermittency of wind and solar, which undercut reliability. 

The other two pilots, priced at $2.9 million and $4.1 million, respectively, will install a battery system at a New Kent County substation to study how to prevent energy from flowing in the wrong direction and place a battery system at an Ashland substation to study how to use the technology as a way to reduce the overloading of transformers.

Overall, the battery pilots will cost $33 million.

In a news release from Dominion Energy, Vice President of Grid and Technical Solutions Joe Woomer called energy storage “a critical component to meeting our customers’ needs and providing continued grid stability.” 

“Experience from these pilot projects will enable storage to complement or serve as an alternative to traditional grid enhancements needed to maintain reliable service for our customers as we work to integrate renewables and improve grid resiliency,” he said. 

Approval of the pilots was smoothed by the 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act, which declared battery pilots of up to 30 megawatts in Dominion territory and up to 10 megawatts in Appalachian Power territory to be in the public interest

Under the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the Democratic energy omnibus still working its way through the General Assembly this session, 2,700 megawatts of energy storage would be declared in the public interest, of which about 65 percent could be developed by utilities