Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA; Fairbanks, Alaska, U.S.) has energized a new US$30-million BESS (Battery Energy Storage System). The BESS will stabilize the local grid and reduce its vulnerability to events such as the recent blackout in the northeastern United States and Canada. A consortium led by ABB, the leading power and automation technology group, supplied and installed the BESS.

At the heart of the world's most powerful storage battery system are two core components. First are the Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cad) batteries, developed by Saft. Second is the converter, designed and supplied by ABB, which changes the batteries' dc power into ac power ready for use in GVEA's transmission system.

The official dedication ceremony for the Golden Valley BESS took place on August 26 when ABB and Saft brought the first three strings of the battery online. The BESS is configured to operate in several distinct modes, each of them aimed at stabilizing the GVEA system if power supply problems occur. This is a critical feature for this type of system and is one reason why battery energy storage is widely regarded as a vital component of the electricity delivery infrastructure of tomorrow.

During commissioning tests, the Saft battery and the ABB power conversion system set an unofficial world record by achieving a peak discharge of 26.7 MW with just two strings operational. This makes the Alaskan BESS more than 27% more powerful than the previous record holder, a 21-MW BESS commissioned by the Puerto Rico Power Authority at Sabana Llana, Puerto Rico in 1994.

Although the BESS is initially configured with four battery strings, it can be expanded to six strings to provide a full 40 MW for 15 minutes. The facility can ultimately accommodate up to eight battery strings, giving flexibility to boost output or prolong the useful life of the system beyond the planned operation for 20 years.

Saft designed and built the battery, which comprises nearly 13,760 rechargeable cells in four parallel strings. Saft is providing a “cradle to grave” service by taking responsibility for the recycling of each Ni-Cad cell.
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