South Portland planning officials on Tuesday night will consider an unusual project that may help Maine meet its goals for producing climate-friendly energy.
Instead of reviewing proposals for new housing, business space and the like, the Planning Board will consider a site plan for an $8 million battery energy storage system, to be installed by New England Battery Storage Inc. on 1.5 acres of woodland near 2290 Broadway.
The storage system would essentially be a giant bank of batteries — six 50-foot-long containers of them, each with 750 lithium-ion units. The batteries would store electricity produced by Maine solar- and wind-powered generators and send it out to the grid as needed.
Since solar and wind technologies make electricity intermittently, storage systems like this play a key role. That’s why the state Legislature last year set a goal of creating 100 megawatts of energy storage capacity in Maine by the end of 2025. A related bill is now pending.
New England Battery Storage, based in Boston, already has a BESS installation in Madison and feels South Portland would be a great place for another. With its location close to a Central Maine Power Co. electricity distribution circuit, the proposed site could readily handle charging and discharging, according to NEBS President and CEO Jeffrey Perry.
“It can often be difficult to find a circuit that has the available capacity to both charge and discharge,” he told Mainebiz on Wednesday by email. “This close proximity to a specific distribution circuit that has the capacity to both charge and discharge of 10 megwatts is unique, in that regard.”
The South Portland BESS would have storage capacity of 20 MW, twice that of the system in Madison and one the company is opening in Rumford. A similar project is also planned in Sanford.
In South Portland, the proposed site is in a General Commercial zoning district and the city’s Maine Mall Mixed-Use Area, bordered by the Maine Turnpike and Interstate 295. Most of the adjacent property is undeveloped or consists of industrial lots. The battery banks would sit on concrete pads, and the installation would also include other electrical equipment and be surrounded by a crushed rock surface, which would function as a stormwater control.
The South Portland Planning Board meets virtually Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.