The VRFB project, expected to be operational in the first half of 2017, is one of several energy storage projects SNOPUD has commissioned as part of a multi-year programme aimed at transforming how utilities manage grid operations, using flexible resources such as energy storage.
Two other grid batteries, installed at a substation near the utility's operations centre, were commissioned in 2015.
These use lithium ion batteries, by two different suppliers, LG Chem and Mitsubishi-GS Yuasa, and are both 1MW/0.5MWh in size.
The battery storage contracts, including the VRFB project, which are worth more than $15 million, including $7 million in grants from the state's Clean Energy Fund, have all been developed by Doosan Gridtech, an energy storage controls software developer set up in 2011 by David Kaplan, who previously worked at SNOPUD as a grid technologist.
The company, previously called 1Energy Systems, was acquired by Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction, as part of the Korean conglomerate's expansion into the energy storage industry in mid-2016.
Working with SNOPUD, its first utility customer, Doosan Gridtech helped formulate the modular energy storage architecture (MESA) standards platform.
Without open standards, the growth of the energy storage industry could potentially be hampered, as each project would have to be custom engineered, with each vendor in the market providing their own proprietary design.
"As our systems got deployed and MESA came about, we started to attract more attention. Companies calling themselves energy-storage software firms that were more like turnkey suppliers of battery systems, realised that doing one or two modes of operation wasn't enough. Software became more interesting," said Kaplan.
The two lithium ion battery installations operated by SNOPUD are designed to improve reliability and the integration of renewable energy sources, which are rapidly growing in the Pacific Northwest region of the US.
To date, Doosan Gridtech has supplied more than 30MW of energy storage systems, mainly to utility customers in the US, including Texan utility Austin Energy.
The VRFB project marks the first time Doosan Gridtech's software controls are to be used with a battery technology that is not lithium ion.
The project requires an energy-intensive battery to enable SNOPUD to store energy for use during peak demand times.