Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company have launched a new project to test utility-scale energy storage at E.W. Brown Generating Station near Harrodsburg in Mercer County in the US state of Kentucky.

The project, which was developed in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), became operational in January 2017 and will allow the utilities to develop, test, and evaluate the potential benefits of utility-scale battery technologies, and investigate operating needs and associated costs.

Additionally, researchers will be able to use the site to advance control technologies, increase value gained from storage, and determine solutions to integration challenges for energy storage on the electric grid.

The site includes three testing bays for energy storage technologies, each able to house up to one megawatt of storage, resulting in a total hosting capacity of up to three megawatts of energy storage.

The first energy storage system installed on the site consists of a 1MW lithium-ion battery system, a one megawatt smart power inverter and an advanced control system.

This storage system was custom-engineered for the site and can support a number of advanced control functions and use cases during testing.

LG&E and KU Research and Development manager David Link said: “The Energy Storage Research and Demonstration Site is unique among other sites in the utility industry because it provides us a testbed for evaluating multiple utility-scale energy storage technologies at the same time."

Testing multiple storage technologies at one time will allow researchers to assess how the individual systems operate and any potential grid integration challenges as the systems work together, simulating these technologies operating at the same time on the electric grid.

The site is also designed to be collaborative, creating a “virtual lab” for use by other utilities working with EPRI to address potential gaps associated with utility-scale energy storage, while also providing a platform to share knowledge gained across the utility industry.

EPRI Distribution and Energy Utilization vice president Mark McGranaghan said: “Energy storage is a viable way for grid operators to enhance resiliency, manage costs, and optimally incorporate distributed energy resources on an integrated grid. 

“The LG&E and KU testbed will provide valuable data on the performance of energy storage that will help utilities across the country make better decisions about their own systems as well as provide information to other stakeholders.”

The testbed is part of EPRI’s Integrated Grid Initiative Pilot Projects, through which utilities across the country are collaborating in R&D projects to understand the benefits, costs, and technical challenges of integrating new, distributed energy resources, with more traditional, centralized generation.

The team expects R&D on the LG&E and KU testbed to last about three years. For more information about EPRI’s Integrated Grid Initiative, visit integratedgrid.epri.com.

In addition to EPRI as the primary project collaborator, equipment suppliers for the project include LG Chem, Dynapower and Greensmith Energy.