Provincetown hooked up to large electricity battery

Designed for reliability, project is one of largest in nation

ONE OF THE LARGEST electric batteries in the nation is starting to provide backup power for Provincetown and will soon do the same for Truro and part of Wellfleet.

The $49 million battery, located on a few acres at the Provincetown transfer station, is designed to seamlessly integrate with the power grid in the area, called a microgrid. Whenever power goes down in a section of the grid, the battery will release its backup electricity to plug the gap.

The Provincetown battery was envisioned as a cheaper way to meet the reliability needs of the area. Currently, the area is served by a lone distribution line spinning off of a transmission line that ends 13 miles away in Wellfleet. Officials said building a new backup distribution line over that 13-mile stretch would have cost significantly more and it would have been partially routed through the Cape Cod National Seashore, raising a host of environmental issues.

Eversouce engineer Carlos Ortiz Eversource Lead Engineer for Commissioning Carlos Ortiz inside battery storage facility in Provincetown. (Photo courtesy of Eversource)

The battery in Provincetown, given the green light by state regulators in 2017, is basically a series of 1,000 smaller batteries housed in racks in a large building. Each battery works much like the battery on a cell phone, which drains during use and then is recharged by plugging it into a wall plug. The Provincetown battery works similarly, but on a 25-megawatt scale – charged with electricity from the grid when power is plentiful and drawn down when emergencies arise.

“We really needed a second source of supply down there,” said Craig Hallstrom, president of electric operations at Eversource, which built the battery. “It’s a pretty cost-effective solution.”

The battery is currently supplying backup power for the residents of Provincetown, but Hallstrom said it will ramp up to provide backup for Truro and parts of Wellfleet as well. “This is the largest of its type in the nation,” he said.

Hallstrom said projects like the Provincetown battery will become more common throughout the region over the coming years. As their ability to hold a charge improves, batteries are also expected to play a larger role filling in when renewables such as solar and wind power are not available.

According to the operator of the power grid in New England, battery storage devices are now participating in the region’s electricity markets. In the February 2022 bidding process to supply electricity to the region three years from now, battery storage accounted for a total of 700 megawatts.

Batteries also accounted for 20 percent of the projects seeking interconnections with the power grid as of May, double the level from July 2020.