Two utilities in Southcentral Alaska have installed a big Tesla battery system in Anchorage, consisting of 24 Megapack units. This project will save about $121 million over 15 years.
Tesla Megapacks were installed in June on land owned by the Chugach Electric Union, the majority owner, according to Anchorage Daily News. The $63 million project consists of 24 Megapacks. It includes the Matanuska Electric Association, primarily serving the Wasilla-Palmer area, which owns 25%. The batteries will be charged and ready to go in October 2024, or possibly sooner, officials said. The new battery system will reduce utility gas demand.
Managers from both utilities are working together to distribute power to customers in the most efficient way, said Chris Kohler, the project manager for Chugach Electric, during a tour of the project in June. They will instantly provide power if the grid fails, requiring a new power source. Instead of running gas turbine generators to do this, power can be quickly obtained from batteries, which saves money.
“So it’s operational efficiency, savings on gas and (operations and maintenance) on our thermal generating units,” Kohler said, referring to the gas-based units. In addition, Megapacks will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by burning less natural gas.
Mark Henspeter, business development analyst with Chugach Electric said: “It’s improved resiliency, it improves the ability to bring on new renewable projects.”
Megapacks are located on the site next to Chugach's Southcentral Power Project. They will be connected to the Railbelt power grid through the plant. The batteries will be able to produce 40 megawatts of electricity for about two hours. This is equivalent to approximately 15% of Chugach's electricity needs at any time during the summer.
The battery system was installed as two utilities and others on the Railbelt network look for alternatives to natural gas. “It’ll be a great way to learn as we look at a larger energy transition,” said Julie Estey, a spokeswoman with Matanuska Electric Association.
On the Kenai Peninsula southwest of Anchorage, the Homer Electric Association last year installed a larger Tesla battery system consisting of 37 Megapacks. The utility is seeing substantial savings from the batteries, said Larry Jorgensen, director of power, fuels and dispatch at Homer Electric. The capacity of the battery system helps close the gap between electricity demand and generation, he said.
“We use ours for system regulation, when the generation we have doesn’t meet the demand in the system, because people turn things on and off all the time, and we’re always chasing that,” Jorgensen said.
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Eva Fox joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover breaking news as an automotive journalist. The main topics that she covers are clean energy and electric vehicles. As a journalist, Eva is specialized in Tesla and topics related to the work and development of the company.