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The underground cable system has powered the Cape since 1996 when the first of the two cables were installed, followed by the second installation in 2005. Before the underwater transmission lines were installed by National Grid, the areas were mainly powered by coal-fired and diesel generators, according to a report from WBUR.
A reliable backup was required for the two cables, especially during the Summer when the population more than quadruples and electric usage more than doubles. “Demand is going up, but I think we do a good job. We keep the lights on,” said Karen Marsh, who is an employee of National Grid’s Headquarters on Nantucket, and a lifelong resident of the island off the coast of Cape Cod.
The Tesla batteries are merely an insurance policy for Nantucket, as the cables are doing a great job and National Grid has reported that there are rarely issues with the current setup. But if they lose power due to storms (like they did 2-3 winters ago), the entire region will go dark. Tesla’s grid-scalable Powerpack system will ensure that the residents will have power even in severe weather conditions that result in utility disruption and blackouts.
National Grid considered a third cable to support the power needs of the residents and tourists, but the problem is that taxpayers are currently still in the process of paying off the first two. “Building a third cable — we’re talking roughly about $200 million,” National Grid’s director of network strategy Terron Hill said.
Tesla’s battery system costs roughly a third of the price and will remain a solution until National Grid eventually installs a third transmission line in another 20 years. Hill’s idea of installing the Tesla battery energy storage system, or BESS, was one that was geared toward sustainability and dependability, as it will power half of the 13,000 homes for around eight hours. “If we lose one of the cables, we’ll use energy storage that is a cleaner alternative to keep the island going. That’s the main purpose of it: resiliency,” he said.
The BESS will be recharged by a turbine diesel generator, or the underground cables (when they’re functioning normally again).
The system is one of the first in its kind in New England. The first system was installed in Madison, Maine according to New England Battery Storage. There are currently 24 different proposals to bring battery-powered energy systems to the area of New England. Combined, they will hold the capacity of 500 of the newly-installed Nantucket systems. The future of renewable energy in the region is alive and well.