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FlexGen has completed the first project in its 40MW buildout for a set of electric cooperative utilities in North Carolina.

The energy storage system integrator and controls software specialist, itself headquartered in the southern US state, announced yesterday that its project for Randolph Electric Membership Corporation (Randolph EMC) has been commissioned.

Connected to Randolph EMC’s Five Points substation, the system was officially switched on in late October by Ted Budd, US Representative for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District and state Senator Dave Craven.

While the sizing, including output and capacity of the Randolph EMC, has not been disclosed, the project is one of 10 in total that FlexGen has contracted to provide for NC Electric Cooperatives, a group of 26 member-led non-profit utilities that provide energy for about two-and-a-half million people.

Construction of the projects began in January this year, with one other BESS being installed at a Randolph EMC site and the rest for other cooperatives in the group. The systems are being put in rural parts of the state that have weak or distant connection to centralised grid infrastructure.

They will boost the reliability of that connection, while also being used to store cheap, off-peak energy to manage loads on the network. That would not only lower the carbon intensity of the coops’ electricity usage, since peak energy tends to be generated on the grid from gas, but also lower their running costs.

As reported by as the projects got underway, FlexGen’s system integrator expertise is also being leveraged to aid the integration of distributed energy resources (DER) like electric vehicles (EV) and chargers or smart thermostats.

FlexGen has an energy management system (EMS) and software controls platform called Hybrid OS, which will enable the coops to flexibly monitor and coordinate the DERs on their networks.    

“Randolph EMC’s Five Points project is the first of its kind, integrating a standalone battery energy storage system into North Carolina’s cooperative electric grid. The battery will not only support Randolph EMC’s efforts to supply affordable energy to its members, but it is also capable of enhancing the reliability and resiliency of the cooperative electric grid,” NC Electric Cooperatives executive VP and CEO Joe Brannan said.

The projects add more clean energy resources to NC Electric Cooperatives existing portfolio, which includes 14 solar-plus-storage sites totalling 23MW of solar PV and 53MWh of BESS, as well as a handful of rural microgrids.

Collectively, the cooperatives are pursuing a 2050 target date for achieving net zero emissions status. Their fuel mix is already at more than 60% carbon-free and only 5% reliant on coal. Across the US, more than 42 million people get their electricity from a cooperative.

Meanwhile, between 2010 and 2021, renewable energy capacity at coops more than tripled from 3.9GW to more than 13GW, according to NRECA, the national association of US electric cooperatives.

In October, FlexGen signed a 10GWh battery storage supply deal with Chinese manufacturer CATL, live on-stage at the RE+ 2022 trade show in California. At the time, FlexGen CEO Kelcy Pegler said the multi-year agreement would put its customers at the front of the queue for supply constrained battery storage kit.’ publisher Solar Media will host the 5th Energy Storage Summit USA, 28-29 March 2023 in Austin, Texas. Featuring a packed programme of panels, presentations and fireside chats from industry leaders focusing on accelerating the market for energy storage across the country. For more information, go to the website.