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UMass Amherst Receives $1.1 Million Grant for Large Battery Project

AMHERST — UMass Amherst has been awarded a $1.1 million state grant from the Advancing Commonwealth Energy Storage (ACES) project to work with Tesla Energy to construct a large battery at the Central Heating Plant on the west side of campus.

The project involves a 1-megawatt/4-megawatt-hour lithium ion battery storage system that will be designed and constructed by Tesla Energy adjacent to the campus power plant. Working with Tesla and the UMass Clean Energy Extension (CEE), the goal is to reduce peak energy demand on the Amherst campus and related costs. The battery storage system will provide power at times when it is purchased from the power grid, help optimize how the campus integrates its current mix of power generation, and provide a research site for clean-energy experts, researchers, and students.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced the award of 26 grants totaling $20 million at an event in Marlborough. “The development and deployment of energy-storage projects will be vital to the Commonwealth’s ability to continue leading the nation in energy efficiency,” he said. “Funding these storage projects is an investment in our energy portfolio that will reduce costs for ratepayers and help create a clean and resilient energy future.”

Shane Conklin, associate vice chancellor for Facilities and Campus Services at UMass Amherst, noted that “this project is an excellent example of how collaboration between academic research and facilities operations increases benefits to the campus and our students. Not only will we see utility budget savings, our project will provide on-campus data to support research, and Tesla will provide $80,000 of educational initiatives for our students.”

To meet the research goals, Tesla is contributing the funding for educational initiatives during the life of the 15-year project to pay for a range of educational opportunities for UMass Amherst staff and students, including paid internships, career mentorships, lectures, and curriculum development related to solar and energy storage. CEE will also study the operations and maximize learning from the battery-system operations.

The campus currently gets 15 megawatts of power from co-generation at the Central Heating Plant and about 5 megawatts from solar voltaic generation as part of one of the most sophisticated power microgrids in the state. The battery storage capacity will be used to balance constraints on those sources and reduce instances when power is purchased from the outside power grid, campus officials say. It will also demonstrate the role that energy storage can plan within a system that has multiple sources of power.

The battery system will also bring a new level of resiliency to the campus power grid that can operate independent of the electrical power system in the event of a large-scale power outage. The campus power system hosts the Mullins Center, a regional emergency shelter for Hampshire County and its population of 160,000 citizens.

By charging the battery system during off-peak periods and discharging at times peak demand, such as early evening hours during winter months and middle to late afternoon during the summer months, it will help replace less efficient generators, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower costs.

The UMass Amherst physical plant will operate the battery system, and Tesla will manage the design, permitting, construction, and maintenance of the battery system. UMass CEE will provide operations analysis and support as part of its research.

“We’re very excited to be able to integrate a 1-megawatt lithium ion battery into our utility infrastructure on campus,” said Raymond Jackson, director of the physical plant. “This project will help us optimize our on-campus renewable-energy generation, increase resiliency, and further diversify our utility portfolio.”

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