Battery storage could mean cheaper, cleaner power

The Caribbean Utilities Company
The Caribbean Utilities Company

A new utility scale battery storage project could mean cheaper electricity bills and accelerate Cayman’s switch to renewable energy, regulators said Monday.

The Caribbean Utilities Company has received approval for a large battery which can store some 20 megawatts of energy – equivalent to around 20% of Cayman’s daily energy needs. The system will be implemented in 2020/21, according to utilities regulator OfReg.

The battery will enable the power company to reduce its reliance on diesel powered generators. OfReg said the move would cut CUC’s fuel consumption by more than 5% annually, resulting in around $5 million in savings that could be passed on to consumers.

The battery storage project is also designed to add stability and flexibility to the grid, enabling CUC to switch between energy sources, such as diesel, wind and solar, with limited impact on customers. CUC said it would also reduce the risk of power outages by providing instantaneous backup when its generators go down.

OfReg said the project would eventually allow it to add an additional 12 megawatts of energy generation from renewable sources, taking the maximum limit to 29 megawatts, around 25% of total generating capacity.

Richard Hew, president of CUC, said in a statement, “We are pleased that we can now move forward on our battery storage project, which brings us one step further to our commitment to rapid but stable increase in grid-integrated renewable energy sources which will deliver economic and environmental benefits.”

He said fuel savings as a result of the project would be passed on to consumers.

Gregg Anderson, executive director of Energy and Utilities for OfReg, said in a press release, “The 20 MW of energy storage will help improve grid reliability and integrate more renewables; creating a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.”

The move was welcomed by the Cayman Islands Renewable Energy Association, which has advocated for the adoption of large-scale storage.

James Whittaker, president of the association, called on regulators to follow-up with improved regulations to accelerate Cayman’s adoption of renewable energy.

“This is another key step in advancing renewables in the Cayman Islands and lifting some of the stifling restrictions to solar capacity that have hindered the level of adoption we need in order to meet the goals of the national energy policy. By ensuring an even more stable grid, we will now be able to adopt renewable energy at a faster pace,” he said.

The primary function of the battery, according to CUC, is to provide “instantaneous or spinning reserve” in the event of power generation plant failure. That is, if an operating generator fails, the battery will instantly provide the shortfall in energy until other generators can be brought online.

By replacing spinning reserve normally provided by CUC’s online generators, fewer generators will need to be online, significantly reducing the amount of fuel consumed for electricity production. The battery will also have the ability to react much faster than the existing plant, reducing the risk of customer outages caused by loss of generation, the company said.

Hew added, “It is important to note that the cost of providing spinning reserve to supply electrical power will be reduced as CUC will be using stored battery energy rather than diesel to provide reserve power. As a direct result of this project, we expect that the fuel savings to the customers will be around $5 million per annum.”

James Whittaker, the president of the Cayman Islands Renewable Energy Association, has no relation to James Whittaker, the writer of this story.

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  1. It is just amazing that CUC has finally seen after 11 years the full picture of what renewable energy can provide for our country.
    Now CUC needs to approve NET Metering for the household customers that what to invest in renewable energy for their home.