May 27, 2023

OPALCO - Decatur Island Solar and Energy Storage Project: An Assessment of Battery Technical Performance


Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) is a member-owned, nonprofit cooperative utility that provides energy services to approximately 11,200 customers across 20 islands in San Juan County, Washington. OPALCO’s mostly hydroelectric power is generated by Bonneville Power Administration and delivered to the islands by submarine cables. In 2016, as part of the second round of funding from the Washington state Clean Energy Fund, OPALCO received a $1 million matching grant to support a project that deployed a 504-kW LG community photovoltaic (PV) system in combination with a 1 MW/2 MWh lithium-iron-phosphate battery energy storage system (BESS) on Decatur Island, Washington. The Decatur Island Substation is essential to ensuring reliable energy for the residents of the San Juan Islands as it is the point of interconnection with the mainland transmission system. The BESS, in combination with the community solar array, will deliver an innovative method to both defer the costly upgrade of the transmission system and allow for other high-value applications intended to benefit the utility and its customers. In 2018, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) completed a preliminary economic assessment for several identified use cases in collaboration with OPALCO. Between August 2021 and May 2022, extensive testing was conducted, and the results were used to assess the technical performance of the BESS subjected to actual field operations. Both reference performance and use case tests were performed: • Reference performance tests assess the general technical capabilities of the BESS, such as energy capacity, round-trip efficiency (RTE), ramp rate, and signal tracking capability. These are the first tests performed (baseline) and are repeated after use case tests (post cycle). A standardized U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) energy storage performance protocol was used to characterize the BESS, including representative duty cycle profiles, test procedure guidance, and calculation guidance for determining key characteristics. • Use case tests examine the performance of the BESS for specific use cases using duty cycles developed by PNNL in collaboration with OPALCO. Four use cases were selected for testing: 1) demand charge reduction, 2) load shaping, 3) outage mitigation, and 4) transmission deferral. The use case duty cycles were developed based on utility and site-specific characteristics in addition to the technical characteristics and physical capabilities of the BESS. Use case tests were performed between the baseline and post cycle tests. This report describes the BESS and its components, presents testing and performance analysis results, and shares key insights and lessons learned from this project. Outcomes of the tests and analyses will help OPALCO understand the performance of the Decatur Island BESS in its current state and design appropriate operational strategies for this and other BESSs over the long term.

Published: May 27, 2023


Crawford A.J., D. Wu, and V.V. Viswanathan. 2022. OPALCO - Decatur Island Solar and Energy Storage Project: An Assessment of Battery Technical Performance Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.