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Wisconsin's first battery-powered town: the Village of Boaz

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Wisconsin's first battery-powered town; the Village of Boaz

Alliant Energy is unveiling a $3 million, groundbreaking project looking to make power outages a thing of the past.

VILLAGE OF BOAZ (WKOW) -- We've seen how a few inches of wet, heavy snow or ice during Wisconsin's winters could easily knock out power.

For people in rural areas, it could take hours to dispatch crews.

Alliant Energy is unveiling a $3 million, groundbreaking project looking to make power outages a thing of the past.

The first-of-its-kind pilot project in the state is located in the tiny village of Boaz in Richland County.

"It's exciting. I mean, we will never lose power again," village president Jean Nicks said.

Thanks to a giant battery, power outages will become obsolete as part of Alliant Energy's Microgrid Project.

"The goal is to have reliable, safe electricity 24/7 every minute of every day," said Tony Palese, Alliant Energy's communications director.

"This was kind of exciting, so besides helping us out. It's very interesting, what it's going to do for the community," Nicks said.

Boaz was selected for this project because there are 129 people in this village who frequently experience outages.

"They're on kind of a 15-mile extension cord," Palese said.

Which means right now the only way Boaz can get power is from overhead lines, which are powered from a substation 15 miles away. That kind of setup is a big problem during inclement weather.

"When a tree would touch those power lines or a storm would knock down a pole, they were really susceptible to outages due to their location in that infrastructure," Palese said.

"There was one time we were out for like eight, nine hours," Nicks said.

Now when there's an outage, the microgrid will seamlessly provide power until downed power lines can be restored.

"If a tree falls on a line and causes some kind of outage that's what would trigger this to come on and continue serving," said Mike Graves, the lead engineer for Alliant Energy.

Graves said there are five main components to this microgrid: breakers, a transformer, inverters, two batteries and the auxiliary transformer.

"This will turn on and actually disconnect and serve the village of Boaz," Graves said.

That means, when needed, the microgrid can 'island' itself to provide up 24 hours of power to the village, producing cleaner, more resilient energy sources.

"We're shifting away from, you know, a centralized grid that's maybe more susceptible to outages, and really taking advantage of some of these distributed energy resources, whether that's rooftop solar panels, or a community solar garden, or wind turbines," Palese said.

As this project nears completion, Nicks says their tiny town now has a big sense of relief.

"A lot of the elderly people felt more secure that way because people are, like I said, our population's more elderly like myself and you got the assurance," Nicks said.

"We're really excited to be pioneering this technology and utilizing it again, to build a stronger, smarter, more resilient energy grid," Palese said.

Research for Alliant Energy's Boaz Reliability Microgrid project took several years.

Palese said they're still in the testing phase to make sure the system functions as designed. They expect this project to be up and running in March.

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