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Salem Smart Power Center
We’ve heard it for years – there’s a smarter way, a cleaner way to power our cities and towns.
But the biggest problem preventing widespread adoption, and the jump from thinking green to being green has always been storage.

Traditionally, historically, rudimentary – power flows ‘downstream’ – from the source, to the substation, to homes and businesses.

And for all their downsides, traditional fossil fuels’ big upside has always been the reliability of a constant flow.

Green energy doesn’t change the flow, it just becomes another source. A “use it or lose it” source.
If only green energy could be stored.

Kevin Whitener – Smart Grid Project Manager, Salem Smart Power Center
“Everybody recognizes the challenges with renewable energy is that they’re what we call ‘as available,’ meaning they are available when Mother Nature wants them to be.”

Well, in Salem, Oregon at this futuristic confluence of government and utility, technology and the NECA-IBEW team, storage has gone from a problem to a reality.

Kevin Whitener – Smart Grid Project Manager, Salem Smart Power Center
“The concept of energy storage as a solution for renewable energy is throughout the industry, and has been discussed for actually decades. It’s only now that we’re able to apply these technologies and demonstrate what they can really do.”

Part research lab, part educational center, part demonstration facility, the Salem Smart Power Center is a hub for one of the most advanced electrical systems in the world.

Here’s how it works:

PGE, as the utility, generates power through green energy.

That AC power is captured first by directing it through this breaker bank and into the facility.

It then gets converted from AC to DC through these 20, 250-kilowatt inverters.

That recently converted DC power is then moved into these racks of batteries for storage.

When each of the more than 34,000 individual batteries are full, there exists 5 megawatts of stored energy.

Kevin Whitener – Smart Grid Project Manager, Salem Smart Power Center
“We can use this as a battery backup for the customers that are on this particular circuit. So, in certain utility events when we lose utility supply of energy the batteries can spring to life and provide that energy back onto the grid and prevent a power outage that might otherwise occur.”

Keeping the lights on with stored green energy is alone a groundbreaking achievement. But when there isn’t an interruption or an outage and the batteries are full, by the simple click of a mouse, Kevin can simply reverse the process: from the batteries, to the inverters, and then back out onto the grid.

Most often, this is done during peak times, when electricity costs are the highest.

When prices are lower, they click the switch and, voila, the process makes a 180 and begins to store power once again.

This process is the definition of a micro-smart-grid – technologies which are nothing new, but this application is what’s revolutionary.

Kevin Whitener – Smart Grid Project Manager, Salem Smart Power Center
“It’s all about offsetting fossil fuel generation with renewable energy, which is a goal for PGE and also a goal for our nation.”

With the world watching, leaving the construction of this facility to just anyone wasn’t an option.

Kevin Whitener – Smart Grid Project Manager, Salem Smart Power Center
“The construction of this facility was an absolute home run, it was a complete success. We very much enjoyed working with EC, who on the front end provided some very good technical resources.”

Glenn Anderson – IBEW Local 48 Project Manager, EC Electrical Construction Company
“Our engineer did a 3D CAD layout of all the equipment. We had everything marked out exactly where it was going. The stuff was coming off the truck, being unloaded, uncrated, set and anchored in place before the other equipment made if off the truck.”

Kevin Whitener – Smart Grid Project Manager, Salem Smart Power Center
“When we moved into the construction phase, the journeymen and project managers came on board from IBEW and we were thrilled the whole time.”

Glenn Anderson – Project Manager, EC Electrical Construction Company
“My foreman and I sat down and we really laid out a schedule and a plan and we set forth to execute that plan.”

Mark Brinkhous – IBEW Local 48 Field Supervisor & Electrical Designer
“What we have a reputation for in our group, is we do quality work and it works the first time. People come to us for that reason, and we’re very meticulous about our terminations. It’s all about people’s lives in the end. It has to be right. And you don’t sleep at night unless it is.”

Kevin Whitener – Smart Grid Project Manager, Salem Smart Power Center
“When Portland General Electric does a project like this, safety is absolutely paramount. We’re simply not willing to take any risks; we’re simply not willing to have a recordable or lost-time injury. When IBEW comes onto a jobsite, they bring that same philosophy with them. So it’s perfect, it was a perfect marriage.”

Quality installation for a world-class facility – yet another successful project for the NECA-IBEW team, and one that will benefit us all in the future.

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From Salem, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, for ElectricTV.net – I’m Dominic Giarratano.