She weighs as much as a couple of loaded 18-wheelers and has a mind-boggling appetite, but Fort Carson leaders couldn’t be happier with Big Bess.
It’s a good thing storage batteries don’t have to meet the same weight requirements as soldiers. Bess is named for her acronym namesake, the Battery Energy Storage System, which was unveiled last week in a Fort Carson ceremony after years of planning and months of construction work.
It’s a project that’s designed to save Fort Carson millions of dollars in utility bills while also demonstrating a technology that could help cities across the country deal with growing electricity demands.
The scheme involves charging Bess up to her 8.5- megawatt capacity at night when power is cheaper for commercial customers. That stored electricity is discharged during the day, when energy use peaks at the post and the utility costs also reach their highest levels.
“It’s like filling your gas tank at 99 cents a gallon and burning it when gas is $3 per gallon,” said Col. Brian Wortinger, Fort Carson’s garrison commander who oversees the roads, buildings and utilities at the post.
Fort Carson has been the Pentagon’s leading installation for renewable electricity initiatives for years and is home to the Army’s biggest collection of solar power arrays.
The battery system, which can store enough electricity for an estimated 3,400 homes, was installed after extensive studies by the Army, Colorado Springs Utilities and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.
It’s not just one big battery. Instead, hundreds of smaller lithium batteries are grouped to make a single storage device for power.
Leaders say it could save the post more than $500,000 per year over a 20-year life span.
Juan Torres, an associate director of the Energy Laboratory, said the post is a pioneer for the new technology that could be used across the country to better accommodate peak power demands.
Torres said the Department of Energy will study results at Fort Carson to determine how batteries can become party of America’s energy future.
“This project provides technological and economic insight,” he said.
A key customer for the new technology could be the Pentagon, which has long ranked as the nation’s top energy consumer with an annual bill for fuel and electricity topping $12 billion.
But it will have to pass muster at Fort Carson first.
“We’re going to test this over the next few years,” said Hal Alguire, the post’s director of public works.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx