Ohio Village Saves With Solar And Battery Storage

Minster, a western Ohio village with about 2,800 residents, has reaped significant savings and higher quality power from a solar array and energy storage project built using a public-private partnership.

Benefits to Minster, Ohio:

A 4.2-MW solar array combined with a 7-MW storage facility, built by S&C Electric, constitute the first such system in the US established by a municipal-owned utility. The project was made a possible by a public-private partnership between Minster and Half Moon Ventures. Benefits include:

• $175,000 to $180,000 annual savings on capacity transmission
• $350,000 one-time savings on capacitors

Two years after opening, a solar array and energy storage project has provided savings and higher quality power to the little village of Minster, Ohio.

Don Harrod, Minster village administrator, said the arrangement is saving the village approximately $175,000 to $180,000 a year on capacity transmission charges the village no longer has to pay. In addition, the solar-storage setup prevented the village from having to install $350,000 worth of capacitors that would have been needed to improve the village’s power quality.

The Minster facilities constitute the first such system in the US established by a municipal-owned utility.

“The route we chose has been successful,” he said. “For small communities like us that want to get involved in renewable energy, this is a great way to go.”

The 4.2-MW solar array combined with a 7-MW storage facility was built by S&C Electric, which also maintains the facilities.

“It is an advanced type of construction project, but S&C has been doing construction projects for these energy storage systems for over a decade now,” said Chris Evanich, S&C’s manager of microgrids. “Having very robust, intelligent design helps eliminate any concerns in the future.” 

Harrod said the idea for the system flowed from several goals. “We wanted to come up with an electrical source that would give us a low-cost rate and a hedge against market volatility, and that would diversify our energy portfolio, allow us more sustainability and improve our reliability.”

Minster entered a public-private partnership with Half Moon Ventures, a fully integrated renewable energy company. Harrod said Half Moon came up the idea of adding energy storage to the solar array.

“We realized that there were benefits to having the energy storage tied to our system, in terms of improving our power quality,” Harrod said. “And we could use it for peak shaving.”

Half Moon chose S&C to provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for the project.

With input from project stakeholders, S&C selected a 7-MW/3-MW energy storage system. The system included S&C’s PureWave SMS Storage Management System and an LG Chem lithium-ion (nickel manganese cobalt chemistry) battery system. S&C engineers designed an interconnect system that includes medium-voltage transformers and S&C switchgear to complement the energy storage system.

The battery system was sized for frequent charging and discharging cycles, which enables Half Moon to sell power to the PJM frequency regulation market.

Harrod said the solar array and energy storage facilities – about half a mile away from each other – contribute to combined revenue streams. Half Moon pays the village rent for use of the land where the energy storage system is located. The village signed an agreement with Half Moon to buy all the power generated by the solar array.

The combined revenue streams enable the village to charge lower electric rates to residents, Harrod said.

“What we’ve negotiated with Half Moon is cost that is below what our average costs are for the rest of our electrical portfolio. The public-private partnership and working with Half Moon has been a very reliable and beneficial agreement for both parties,” he said.

Harrod said Minster now derives about 13 percent of its power needs from the solar array and storage facilities.

“We’ve had a very good relationship with S&C Electric, in terms of them not only building the system to something that meets our needs and meets Half Moon Power’s needs, but also being responsive to servicing as well,” he added.

Minster currently is working with Half Moon on development of a second-phase solar energy and storage system. The system would comprise 4.2 MW of solar energy production and 7 MW of energy storage. The power will be purchased by the Dannon Co. yogurt plant located in Minster.

That system also will be built by S&C, and is scheduled to come online by the end of this year or the first part of next year.
Minster initially was exploring whether the Dannon plant could serve as a cornerstone to a community solar project. But when Dannon built a new distribution center, the yogurt maker said it wanted to buy all the power the second-phase system could generate.

The village now envisions a third-phase community solar project, in which individual property owners and businesses could buy the output from solar panels. The panels would be located at a newly constructed facility, but individual customers would own the panels.

“They would get a credit off their electric bill for buying power from that solar panel,” Harrod said.

The third facility probably will be built in the next two to three years, though the timetable has not been finalized.

“Communities thinking about diversifying their electrical portfolios in a similar manner should research all facets of the project,” he said. “That’s really key to doing a project like this – fully understanding the solar aspect and the energy storage aspect.”

Harrod also recommended making sure “the parties you’re working with are very reliable and longstanding businesses. To make all this work and get it all put together you’ve got to have outstanding companies to work with, and I think we do with Half Moon Power and S&C Electric.”

Meantime, S&C Electric has built at least 10 similar facilities since the Minster solar array and energy storage system went online. In 2017, S&C completed the Ameren Microgrid project near the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign that incorporates solar, wind power, natural gas and energy storage.

“This is really what the future of the grid is going to look like,” Evanich said. “Battery energy storage is a critical piece to be able to use all these renewables that produce low-cost power, to make them efficient.”

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