DECORAH, Iowa (AP) — So many Decorah residents are putting up solar panels and installing small turbines that Alliant Energy, which serves the city of 7,700 in Winneshiek County, is nearing the limit of how much distributed energy it can host without degrading the quality of electricity in the community.
Rather than say no to more renewable energy, the utility is installing a $2.5 million battery system to store the energy and regulate voltage.
“It can absorb power when there’s too much and then, later in the day, when the sun goes down, we can release that energy and let it flow back onto the system,” said Sarah Martz, manager of distribution engineering at Alliant.
As energy costs rise and climate change causes more extreme weather that can disrupt energy delivery, scientists, entrepreneurs and government leaders are considering the best ways to store energy so it’s there when we need it.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that energy storage is a way for utilities to make money — hopefully sharing the benefits with customers — and increase resilience.
Each year, some share of Iowa’s wind power isn’t delivered to the power grid because demand for power is low at the time. If this energy could be stored and later sold into the grid, Iowa’s wind plant owners could make more than $25 million a year, according to a December report from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
The report also states that developing Iowa’s battery storage industry could bring 300 to 600 new full-time jobs to Iowa and increase gross domestic product $13 million to $24 million per year.
It’s these potential benefits of battery storage that caused the Economic Development Authority to award a $200,000 grant to Alliant for the battery installation in Decorah.