UMass Amherst Receives $1.1 Million Grant for Large Battery Project to be Built with Tesla

Central Heating Plant
UMass Amherst Central Heating Plant

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst has been awarded a $1.1 million state grant from the Advancing Commonwealth Energy Storage (ACES) project to work with Tesla Energy to construct a large battery at the Central Heating Plant on the west side of campus. The award was announced today by Gov. Charlie Baker.

The project involves a 1 megawatt/4 megawatt-hour lithium ion battery storage system that will be designed and constructed by Tesla Energy adjacent to the campus power plant. Working with Tesla and the UMass Clean Energy Extension (CEE), the goal is to reduce peak energy demand on the Amherst campus and related costs. The battery storage system will provide power that would otherwise be purchased from the power grid at premium rates, will help optimize how the campus integrates its current mix of power generation and will provide a research site for clean energy experts, researchers and students.

Baker announced the award of 26 grants totaling $20 million at an event in Marlborough. “The development and deployment of energy storage projects will be vital to the Commonwealth’s ability to continue leading the nation in energy efficiency,” Baker said. “Funding these storage projects is an investment in our energy portfolio that will reduce costs for ratepayers and help create a clean and resilient energy future.”

Shane R. Conklin, associate vice chancellor for facilities and campus services, said, “This project is an excellent example of how collaboration between academic research and facilities operations increases benefits to the campus and our students. Not only will we see utility budget savings, our project will provide on-campus data to support research, and Tesla will provide $80,000 of educational initiatives for our students.”

To meet the research goals, Tesla is contributing the funding for educational initiatives during the life of the 15-year project to pay for a range of educational opportunities for UMass Amherst staff and students, including paid internships, career mentorships, lectures and curriculum development related to solar and energy storage. Campus researchers working with UMass CEE will also study and maximize learning from the battery system operations.

The campus currently gets 15 megawatts of power from cogeneration at the Central Heating Plant and about 5 megawatts from solar voltaic generation as part of one of the most sophisticated power microgrids in the state. The new battery will produce 1 megawatt of power and store 4 megawatt-hours.

The battery power will be used to balance constraints on the heating plant and solar arrays and reduce instances when power is purchased from the outside power grid, campus officials say. It will also demonstrate the role that energy storage can plan within a system that has multiple sources of power.

The battery system will also bring a new level of resiliency to the campus power grid that can operate independent of the electrical power system in the event of a large-scale power outage. The campus power system hosts the Mullins Center, a regional emergency shelter for Hampshire County and its population of 160,000.  

By charging the battery system during off-peak periods and discharging at times peak demand, such as early evening hours during winter months and middle to late afternoon during the summer months, it will help replace less efficient generators, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower cost.

The UMass Amherst Physical Plant will operate the battery system and Tesla will manage the design, permitting, construction and maintenance. UMass CEE will provide operations analysis and support as part of its research.

Raymond E. Jackson, director of the Physical Plant, says, “We’re very excited to be able to integrate a 1 MW lithium ion battery into our utility infrastructure on campus. This project will help us optimize our on-campus renewable energy generation, increase resiliency and further diversify our utility portfolio.”