'Community Storage' initiative sees promise in your water heater

By Jodi Delapaz

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, April 28, 2016 - Vastly underutilized energy storage resources, such as the nation's 50 million residential electric water heaters, can provide substantial environmental and cost benefits, according to research conducted by The Brattle Group. The research was sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA) and Great River Energy (GRE).

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To leverage these untapped energy storage resources, energy and environmental stakeholders are joining together to support a new enterprise, called The Community Storage Initiative (CSI). The defining characteristic of a community storage program, says CSI, is the “coordinated dispatch and optimization of premises-based energy storage resources, often behind a consumer's energy meter, to achieve electric system-wide benefit.”

By aggregating distributed energy technologies that are located throughout a community - such as water heaters, electric vehicles and interconnected storage batteries - utility-sponsored programs can increase energy efficiency, better integrate renewable energy resources onto the grid and save customers money.

“We believe there's a battery hidden in basements all across our service territory,” says Gary Connett, director of member services at Great River Energy, a generation and transmission cooperative based in Maple Grove, Minnesota. “When the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, large capacity water heaters can be enabled to make immediate use of that energy to heat water to high temperatures. The water heaters can be shut down when renewables are scarce and wholesale costs are high.”

The CSI will be chaired by Connett. A list of supporters and descriptions of their community storage efforts is available on the Initiative's website.  Initiative members are currently conducting a range of community storage programs, including grid-interactive water heating, electric vehicle charging, grid-interactive space heating, ice storage technology and residential battery storage.

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