Chattanooga’s airport to become microgrid test ground


Chattanooga, Tennessee, will expand smart grid technology with the installation of a solar-battery microgrid at its municipal airport.

Its Electric Power Board is partnering with Oak Ridge and the University of Tennessee-Knoxvilleon the microgrid project.

The microgrid project will tie supply from their 2MW solar array system to two 250 KW batteries, 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, is supplying 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.

The lessons EPB learns could help other municipal utilities in the region, too, as they look to mitigate power outages due to extreme weather and other events.

“There are a lot of microgrids out there,” said Michael Starke, a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but there have been few so far in the Southeast, where a relatively small handful of utilities are experimenting with microgrids compared to the Northeast or Pacific Northwest.

The city sees microgrids as a potential tool to help manage those peak periods for customers, and also to help customers integrate their own generation.

The test project is mostly being funded by Oak Ridge National Laboratory through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Grid Modernisation Lab Consortium budget totaling $2.5 million over two years, according to a spokeswoman. EPB is paying about $10,000 from existing revenue for the battery development work