Dominion Energy partners with university on alternative battery tech

Dominion Energy partners with university on alternative battery tech
A rendering of EnerVenue's Energy Storage Vessels in use (Credit: EnerVenue)

Dominion Energy Virginia is partnering with Virginia State University to develop a battery storage project that would provide backup power to the school’s multi-purpose center, which hosts athletic events, conferences, concerts, and other community events.

Dominion Energy has enlisted California-based EnerVenue to manufacture and install the 1.5 MW battery on the university’s Ettrick campus, located in southern Chesterfield County. EnerVenue’s energy storage vessels use metal-hydrogen technology that can discharge energy for up to 10 hours. The technology is a variation of what’s used in the aerospace industry.

In a testimony given to the State Corporation Commission of Virginia, Dominion said it had tested nine different non-lithium ion BESS technologies, a process that included safety qualifications, estimated costs, physical footprint for space requirements, technology chemistry, self-discharge rates and cycle rates.

Dominion said EnerVenue’s system provided the “unique capability to be cycled multiple times per day when necessary while also maintaining a low self-discharge rate when idle for long periods of time to be available for backup power support,” as well as the potential ability to site the system on customer property with a lower safety equipment footprint.

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EnerVenue’s batteries utilize nickel-hydrogen chemistry, Dominion said, just as NASA has done for more than 50 years for long-duration battery storage. The batteries have the ability to showcase a high safety profile, with no thermal runaway or fire propagation risk being displayed during an open-flame test, Dominion said. As a result, the utility said there could be a reduced need for expansive safety and mitigation equipment.

The initiative is one of several lithium-ion alternative projects proposed to the Virginia State Corporation Commission in September.

At another location in Henrico County, Dominion Energy plans to test two other pioneering battery storage technologies, including one that can discharge power for up to 100 hours. Most battery storage in the U.S. is currently limited to four hours or less.

The VSU pilot is the latest in a series of efforts to advance battery storage, including the August groundbreaking of what will be Dominion Energy’s largest battery storage facility at Dulles International Airport. The company operates four other battery storage sites, in Powhatan, Hanover, New Kent, and Chesterfield counties, and has a sixth installation under development in Sussex County.

Virginia State plans to use the backup battery as a hands-on teaching tool for students pursuing in careers in the energy sector. The university will develop curriculum for students in VSU’s College of Engineering and Technology, incorporating real-world scenarios about the inner workings of battery storage technology.

If approved by state regulators, the project is expected to be in operation by the end of 2027.

Earlier this year, Dominion Energy Virginia issued its annual request for proposals to acquire new clean energy projects, seeking solar, onshore wind, and standalone energy storage projects, as well as solar and wind projects co-located with storage.

Acquisition of the projects is expected to support Virginia’s future energy needs as outlined in Dominion’s most recent Integrated Resource Plan. The projects will also help the company achieve the requirements of the Virginia Clean Economy Act and its commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

Originally published in Power Engineering.