ACUA’s Battery-Storage System, First Financed by NJ’s Clean Energy Fund

Tom Johnson | April 17, 2018 | Energy & Environment
Atlantic County Utilities Authority will back up wastewater treatment plant — powered in part by solar and wind — if grid goes down

ACUA's battery-storage system was the first to be financed in part through the state’s Clean Energy program.
The Atlantic County Utilities Authority is breaking ground again with a new green initiative, the first battery-storage system financed in part through the state’s Clean Energy program.

The authority’s wastewater treatment facility in Atlantic City already gets more than 60 percent of its electricity from a 7.5-megawatt wind farm and a 500-kilowatt solar facility.

The new 1-megawatt demonstration storage system, installed and operated by Viridity Energy Solutions, will provide backup power from wind turbines and solar arrays to help manage supply and demand and keep the wastewater plant running in case the power grid goes down.

Atlantic County Utilities Authority president Rick Dovey
“This is a terrific first step,’’ said Rick Dovey, president of the ACUA, who has overseen the facility for nearly three decades, leading it to develop the state’s first and still only wind farm back in 2005.

Besides the familiar five turbines spinning overlooking the casino resort, the authority also has a geothermal heating and cooling system for its administrative offices, the first such facility in southern New Jersey. It also has a fleet of hybrid and electric vehicles, about 30 compressed natural gas vehicles, and electric charging stations.

Roadmap to the future

The authority’s green initiatives reflect a vision of what clean-energy advocates and the Murphy administration foresee happening in the rest of the New Jersey, a state where 100 percent of its power comes from renewable and other clean-energy sources.

“This project fits right within the Murphy administration’s aggressive clean-energy agenda, which has already positioned New Jersey as a national leader in a very short period of time,’’ said New Jersey Board of Public Utilities president Joseph Fiordaliso.

Energy-storage technology is critical to achieving those targets, since the two most prominent renewable energy technologies — wind and solar — are intermittent sources of power: The wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine.

“Battery-storage technology is the critical component to developing a smart grid, and it has the potential to completely revolutionize power generation,’’ Dovey said.

During Hurricane Sandy, scores of wastewater-treatment plants lost power, some for long periods, leading to raw sewage spilling into the state’s rivers and bays, as well as the ocean. “It became apparent that we needed to become more resilient in the face of future storm events and not lose power,’’ Dovey said.

The ACUA project is the first to receive a rebate from the state’s Clean Energy Program. The Murphy administration, however, has set an ambitious target of having 600 megawatts of energy storage in place in New Jersey by 2021.

One of the biggest hurdles to making energy storage more widespread are regulatory barriers imposed by the regional grid operator, which have deprived system developers of the revenue they projected to earn from the projects.

In the ACUA case, Viridity will own and operate the battery-storage system to create energy savings for the facility. The system began operating in the first quarter of this year.

“ACUA continues to be innovative in adopting onsite energy technology to lower their energy costs and being a leader in adopting green technology,’’ said Mack Treece, CEO of Viridity.