Chattanooga Airport Future Home of Solar-Battery Microgrid

The city of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Electric Power Board is partnering with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to build a solar-battery microgrid at its municipal airport. The airport already has a two mW solar array, and the microgrid project will tie that system to two 250 kW batteries –  as well as related equipment and software – to allow it to function off the grid.

“Energy storage is going to really take off in the next several years as costs continue to drop,” said Jim Glass, Chattanooga’s manager of smart grid development. “We’re trying to learn as much as we can now so that when it becomes cost-effective we’ll have a good idea of what we want to do and what kind of technology we want to use.”

National Instruments of Austin, Texas, will supply the hardware and Green Energy Corp. of Raleigh, North Carolina, is developing open-source software. A vanadium redox flow battery is being supplied by UniEnergy Technologies of Mukilteo, Washington, under a license from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

It is expected that the new microgrid could help other municipal utilities in the region, too, as they look to mitigate power outages due to extreme weather and other events. The city sees microgrids as a potential tool to help manage demand peaks for customers, and also to help customers integrate their own power generation.

This test project is primarily funded by Oak Ridge National Laboratory through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Lab Consortium budget totaling $2.5 million over two years.