Dominion Kicks off Battery-Storage Pilot Project

Utility-scale batteries adjacent to solar panels at Dominion’s Scott Solar Facility. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

A utility-scale battery storage system has gone online at Dominion Energy’s Scott Solar Facility in Powhatan County, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. During the day when solar output is peaking, excess energy is rerouted to the batteries. When the sun goes down and output falls, batteries release electricity back into the grid. The 12-megawatt battery complex can power 3,000 homes for up to four hours.

The purpose of the Scott Solar project is to give Dominion real-world experience in understanding how batteries can integrate into the larger electric grid. Dominion officials contend that battery storage can be a more cost-effective way to meet high-demand periods than, in the RTD’s words, building “an entirely new generation facility.”

The “levelized cost” of electricity, which includes up-front capital costs, operating costs, and fuel costs (which are zero for solar) over the lifetime of the project, is lower for solar than any other energy source available on a large scale in Virginia. However, solar farms are part of a larger system that must meet the demand for electricity 24/7. Solar facilities, while highly cost-efficient on a stand-alone basis, are highly variable. Output cannot be dialed up and down as needed. Therefore, they require significant backup. Batteries are one means of providing that backup. And batteries have a cost.

A 2019 Dominion press release said that Scott Solar would be one of three lithium-ion battery projects in Central Virginia totaling $33 million to build. The plan was to evaluate their performance over a five-year period. The two Scott Solar battery systems totaled 12 megawatts, while battery systems in Ashland and New Kent Counties totaled four megawatts. Assuming that the cost per megawatt was roughly the same, the Scott Solar batteries cost in the realm of $25 million.

To get the true sense of the cost of solar-generated electricity, the $25 million cost of the batteries must be added to the original $50 million cost of the solar park, adding 50% to the cost. And that doesn’t take into account the backup Dominion needs for when clouds block the sun and output falls off significantly for days at a time. The batteries, designed to supply power for four hours after the sun has been shining, can’t come close to making up for such a deficit. Providing fallback electricity sources will entail an additional cost.

Perhaps solar+batteries will prove to be both economically competitive and compatible with grid reliability even when all costs are taken into account. We’ll have a better idea when Dominion gets some experience with the batteries. Dominion’s 2019 press release mentions a five-year evaluation period. That will be complete in 2027, giving the utility only 18 years to complete the design and overhaul of its General Assembly-mandated transition to a net-zero electric grid.

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29 responses to “Dominion Kicks off Battery-Storage Pilot Project”

  1. who produces and profits from the batteries? what about the life span of the batteries? what is the failure rate percentage during life time? what is the cost of disposal [or do we just send them to Africa?]? inquiring minds should ask these questions too.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Sublette’s re-write of the Dominion news release indicates a short lifespan, maybe 15 years, meaning probably another full set required before the solar field is retired at 30 years. Total waste of ratepayer money, but what else is new?

      1. In 10 years the efficiency of the panels will have deteriorated so much they use gas and nuke to replenish the batteries.

      2. Excellent points. I wish I’d thought to include it in my post.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          yep. But 15 years in a technology sense is a L O N G time. By that time, batteries might be so advanced and cheap, the whole game has changed.

          Not only advances in batteries but maybe hydrogen or other technologies.

          All the more reason to look ahead and not back and not gloom & doom.

          You guys probably thought cell phones and internet were doomed technologies way back when, I suspect.

          1. H2 embrittlement is still a huge barrier.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            yes. hydrogen appears nowhere near a breakthrough. But then again, no worse than trying to find safe nukes…?

    1. Lefty665 Avatar

      Those batteries were prone to abrupt discharge of their stored energy. Although they have utility that makes them somewhat less useful as backups for solar.

      1. Lefty665 Avatar

        The sun works in wondrous ways. All hail the sun.

  2. Lefty665 Avatar

    According to the RTD article these batteries are to be used to meet peak demand. They are not sized or designed to supply energy when the sun is not shining. Guess Dominion is not exploring that issue yet.

    That is enough battery capacity to make me glad I’m not living next door to it.

  3. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    See above. North American Energy Reliability Council: Batteries won’t cut it. The back up needs to be natural gas and there is a great need for more gas infrastructure. That’s their most recent, very technical report.

    “Table 3.2 shows the changing on-peak capacity composition of generating resources in North America over the past 10 years. Although the installed nameplate capacity for wind and solar PV resources has grown considerably over the past decade (wind installed capacity has grown from 44.7 GW to 137.7 GW, and solar PV has risen from less than 1 GW to over 40.5 GW in the 10-year period), their contribution to on-peak capacity is 5% of total generation in 2021.”

    Gas provides for the peak, and (as this report also discusses) it was the failure of gas in Texas last year that turned the problem of the poor wind and solar performance into a major statewide disaster. Everything failed pretty much those weeks in February.

    At least your report, Jim, is more balanced than the cheerleader report in the RTD over the weekend, basically a Dominion press release with no mention of cost or effort to discuss LCOE. Their climate high priest Sean Sublette up to his old tricks.

  4. Battery backup,is nonsense and Dominion knows it. See my report: Dominion’s VCEA Compliance Plan is Disastrously Unreliable

    Dominion is just playing a game.

    1. Bubba1855 Avatar

      David…always enjoy your responses regarding ‘green’ energy. I have been watching the PJM website for the past month. I was particularly interested in the wind generation graphs. I assume that virtually all of the wind generation in PJM reporting is from land based farms. Do you have any links to wind farm generation graphs similar to PJM for Atlantic, East Coast USA off shore generation?

  5. Dominion has succumbed to the woke agenda. Virginias working class will pay the price.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Are you a working class Virginian?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        maybe an investor? 😉

        1. Every ratepayer is an investor, with no disclosure as to the risks.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            not really. Investors have more money involved than their electric bill…. AND more importantly, more CONTROL over whether to leave it invested or not.

            Investor money can “walk” and to this point, has not with Dominion.

            So some see Dominion like they see car companies betting big on EVs… no?

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    A couple of things to keep in mind:

    1. – what is the demand at night compared to day?

    2. – how much of the nighttime demand is met by the nukes?

    3. – what is the amount of demand that is unmet at night?

    4. – what role will more efficient technology have on demand in the next 20-30 years?

    5. – how much gas will ultimately be needed to cover what the nukes/batteries can’t cover at night?

    I think this part of what Dominion is looking at including how offshore wind “works” (or not).

    So we’re seeing advancing technology and evolution – not unlike what we’ve seen in decades past.

    What’s with the gloom and doom and failure mongering?

    and GAWD, you’d think with all the other gloom & doom about the “rare” and high cost lithium that none of this would ever happen.. eh?

    If and when this “works” – 3rd world countries the world over will get “grid” electricity.

    And NUKES ! When are we going to get modern nukes and why isn’t Dominion playing in that game also?

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Trial and error, with an emphasis on the latter since there is no financial consequence to the company. As to your other questions, for Dominion I don’t know but you can knock yourself out on the PJM-wide data. Set your alarm for 3 am….

      Pretty clear nukes alone don’t cover the night time, and the trough at 4 am is about 50% below the peak in late PM. That’s a summer pattern. Heating season might look different.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Hey I read through the NERC report and could not find a single mention of battery or batteries…

        It’s a substantial and comprehensive report .. maybe I missed the “battery” part?

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          1) You saw however tons of data on the key role of gas for future reliability and 2) the headline came from a statement made by a NERC official in the story on UtilityDive, which is what I linked. As far as NERC and PJM can see, there are no batteries yet, not enough to even show up on their data. The 16MW Dom has installed is a thimble in an ocean.

          “If we’re going to reliably integrate these resources over the next 10 years, we’ve really got to start now,” said Moura. That will mean additional investment in natural gas infrastructure, he said.

          “Gas is a bridge fuel to where I think policies ultimately want to take us,” Moura said. “Batteries aren’t going to do it, and we’re going to need a backup fuel for wind and solar. So this is important to invest in.”

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            yes, but I do quibble with how you framed it as if NERC said it – they really did not.

            ” See above. North American Energy Reliability Council: Batteries won’t cut it. ”

            Here’s what NERC… DID SAY about batteries – not the gloom and doom version:


            ConclusionThe study results demonstrate that battery storage can provide sufficient frequency response to support grid frequency stability and improve frequency performance for large generator tripping events and other frequency disturbances for a future high penetration IBR grid with heavily reduced grid inertia. In the study, energy is injected to the gridat high speedsfrom the BESS at locations to reduce the grid frequency stability risks associated with the decreasing grid inertia,such as highRoCoFimmediately following an event. The study also demonstrated that BESS start supporting grid frequency during the arresting period and improve the frequency nadir and overall frequency performance. ”

            You can read on but it don’t sound like they’re dismissing batteries as viable.

  7. Paul Sweet Avatar
    Paul Sweet

    Solar makes a great contribution towards peak electric demand in the summer. However, in winter the peak electric demand occurs overnight when temperatures are lowest. The winter peak will continue to grow if gas is curtailed and more people have to switch over to heat pumps (or even worse, electric resistance heat if the ductwork is insufficient or ducts can’t be installed). Also, more people will be buying electric cars and charging them overnight.

    I have confidence that technology will improve with time and the free market will fill the demand, but trying to artificially accelerate this changeover is likely to create many more problems than solutions.

    1. Lefty665 Avatar

      To my surprise after moving to an all electric house we found that resistance heat in the winter cost less than A/C in the summer. Neither heat nor A/C was exorbitant. It was not what I was expecting. The house is pretty well insulated.

      The bigger issue is storage to bridge times when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. We have not begun to meaningfully tackle that problem. Neither incremental improvements in technology nor the free market will magically solve that issue

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      I don’t disagree but see some of this the way we dealt with the Ozone Holes or the discovery that DDT and other chemicals were causing serious harm to humans and critters.

      The point about the winter peak demand. Is that true? I was under the impression that when people were active – that heat in buildings like schools, commercial , corporate, etc all had to be brought up to higher temps when those building were occupied during the day.

  8. Paul Sweet Avatar
    Paul Sweet

    This is from PJM Inside Lines:

    “Summer Peak Estimates

    The forecast estimates summer peak load growth to average 0.4% per year for the next decade and 0.4% per year over 15 years. Those estimated rates are expected to result in an RTO-wide summer peak of approximately 154,000 MW in 2032 and 158,000 MW in 2037.

    The 2022 summer’s upcoming peak is forecast at approximately 149,000 MW. PJM’s record summer peak took place in 2006 at 165,563 MW.

    Winter Peak Estimates

    PJM’s record-high winter peak measured 143,129 MW in February 2015. PJM estimates a winter peak of approximately 133,000 MW for winter 2022/2023.

    In 10 years, modest annual 0.7% growth contributes to the projected 2032/33 winter peak of approximately 141,500 MW, continuing through 2037/38 to approximately 145,000 MW.

    Year Summer Peak Winter Peak PJM RTO Total Energy
    2022 148,938 MW 132,980 MW 781,318 GWh
    2032 154,381 MW 141,516 MW 845,133 GWh
    2037 157,689 MW 145,220 MW 877,586 GWh”

    I can’t remember where I saw information on Dominion’s peaks a few years ago, and a search on their website didn’t turn up something like what I was looking for. A couple other websites showed winter peaks occurring in early morning, when everybody is getting up and buildings are being heated from night setback, and in the evening. Oil and gas probably still account for most heating, but nighttime demand will increase as more heating switches over to electric (heat pump and/or resistance).

    There is actually less demand for electricity for heating during a winter’s day. Lights and people put out enough heat in commercial buildings to offset heat losses until the temperature is in the 30s or lower. In any case, the reduced output of PV during the shorter winter days is less likely to be able to carry a building through the night.

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