By Michael Bielawski
A company called Nomad Transportable Power Systems, Inc. (NOMAD), based in Waterbury, has been contracted to supply five Vermont communities with portable batteries intended to aid outage-stricken residents in a similar fashion as gas-powered generators do.
The company is getting a $9.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to “bring long-duration energy storage to five communities in rural Vermont” according to a statement.
Company officials say they “will be building a new, mobile, long-duration energy storage solution using KORE Power’s next-gen modules. Each NOMAD unit will be capable of providing power to about 50 homes for 10 hours.”
NOMAD CEO Paul Coombs says the grant money “will ensure that the benefits of clean energy and long-duration storage reach communities that need them. … We are proud that the systems NOMAD builds here in Vermont will benefit rural communities of the Northeast that are too often left behind.”
NOMAD was formed by KORE Power in 2020, a manufacturer of lithium-ion battery cells. KORE will be working with NOMAD on this project. Also, the Electric Power Research Institute will help monitor how well this turns out in terms of performance and costs.
Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s largest electricity utility, also is involved. Mari McClure, GMP’s president, and CEO, said they are “excited to continue rapidly growing battery storage in Vermont to keep everyone powered up through extreme weather.”
GMP already uses portable battery technology to alleviate the grid during times of high demand.
Gas powered generators getting new emission restrictions?
The move comes on the heels of a recent proposal by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to overhaul carbon monoxide emission standards for gas-powered generators.
Early analysis from industry leaders says that this would immediately render most existing generators non-compliant. Vermont energy expert Meredith Angwin called the proposal “a kind of cruelty” to inhibit access to generators during a time of increased uncertainty with the electric grid. The VDC report is here.
Jury is still out on which technology is better
The onset of this new technology has already stirred debate on which technology, the existing gas-powered generators or the portable batteries, are preferable. A report by EcoFlow (an electric generator company) details some of the differences.
The early consensus is it depends on the situation. The new batteries are ideal because they are lightweight, they are silent, have no emissions, and can be recharged by being plugged into an outlet, a car, or an attached solar panel.
The cons are that they cannot ‘generate’ power, at least not without a solar system attached. They also lack the capacity to power as many devices with only about half the capacity compared to their gas-powered counterparts.
Gas-powered generators are ideal for those who need high capacity to power more machines. They can be continuously refueled as needed, whereas the batteries must recharge which takes about an hour. Gas-powered generators are also an established industry rather than a relatively unproven technology.
The cons are that they weigh more, they do make noise and they do have emissions.
More blackouts coming?
A report by Forbes says that the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, says a “changing resource mix” (switching to intermittent energies such as wind and solar power) in addition to “aging and under-invested electrical grid” are signs that more blackouts are on the way.