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Features Baltimore, United States 26-02-2024

4 min read

Helping to keep the heat on in rural Maryland

An aerial view of historic Annapolis, situated on the Chesapeake Bay, during an early November morning.
Baltimore Gas and Electric solved the challenge of meeting high demand during winter with a battery energy storage system from Hitachi Energy

Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) has kept the lights on in the Baltimore region since 1816. But a lot has changed since the nation’s first gas utility began powering Maryland homes. Today, electricity demand is increasing while wind and solar make up an ever-bigger share of the state’s power mix. Under Maryland law, by 2030, renewable sources must make up 50 percent of the electricity that power utilities provide. The state’s energy transition presents both opportunities and challenges for BGE: As demand continues to rise and more renewable energy comes online, the utility must ensure enough power is available when customers need it throughout the year.

In Fairhaven, a rural area about 24 miles south of Annapolis, BGE faced a particularly thorny reliability challenge. While summer brings peak demand in Maryland overall, in Fairhaven, demand typically spikes during the winter, when residents turn up the heat and crank up their electric heaters. “It's a rural community with a lot of energy demand during wintertime,” says Ricardo Floriani, Project Operations Manager for Hitachi Energy’s Grid Edge Solutions. “Most of the heaters are electrical, not gas. So, substations around that area demand more energy during wintertime.”

As a result, the total electrical load in Fairhaven exceeded peak times the capacity of a 34.5kV line in the area, creating a risk of overloading the system.

To meet this challenge, BGE partnered with Hitachi Energy to install a new Hitachi Energy e-Mesh PowerStore battery energy storage system (BESS) to improve year-round reliability in southern Anne Arundel County and parts of neighboring Calvert County. The approach also allowed BGE to forego costly underground upgrades for 10 miles of electric distribution equipment. Battery energy storage systems, made of one or more batteries, store energy from a variety of sources during times of low demand and then discharge it whenever more power is needed. This extra power in reserve helps balance the electrical system and improve grid stability.

BGE’s new BESS project, installed at the Fairhaven substation on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay, can store energy from solar projects and other sources. The additional power provided by the new BESS, which became operational in November 2023, alleviates strain on the grid and improves the reliability of the local power supply throughout the year.

Outside the winter months, the new storage system will also provide grid support to the regional transmission organization, PJM, when needed. PJM coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity to 65 million people in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia. Unforeseen fluctuations in demand and supply can destabilize the power market. To help reduce this risk, the BESS is configured to receive automated signals from PJM. When the storage system receives a request, it can push power to the PJM grid within five seconds.

The storage system, one of two BESS projects BGE brought online in 2023, consists primarily of Hitachi Energy products and solutions, allowing for seamless connectivity. The system includes two battery containers that hold 48 racks of lithium-ion batteries, which store direct current (DC) energy and are enshrouded by a fire protection system. Adjacent to the batteries are four PS 1000 inverters, which convert DC to alternating current (AC) power. The project also includes a control system and two new distribution transformers.

The Fairhaven BESS is an important part of a statewide pilot project to support Maryland’s goal of installing 3,000 MWh of storage by 2033. Created under the Maryland Energy Storage Pilot Project Act, signed into law in 2019, the initiative aims to spur innovation in energy storage and explore different ownership models and new ways to maximize storage value for utilities and customers. Combined with a smaller storage project built in the area in January 2023, the projects will improve electricity service for around 9,000 BGE customers. The project also helps BGE move toward its “Path to Clean” goal of reducing operational emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050.

Energy storage is essential for ensuring the reliable flow of power as demand fluctuates and as the decarbonization of the grid advances. BGE’s Fairhaven BESS project helps keep the electrons flowing while advancing the utility’s clean energy goals, as well as the state’s emission reduction targets.

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