It is a known fact that the US electrical grid is an aged structure and will require important upgrades that would incur significant costs. The result of this condition is a rash of power disturbances across different parts of the nation, causing the economy up to $180 billion in losses each year. To upgrade and rehabilitate the total grid infrastructure, the nation would need approximately $1.5 to $2 Trillion to cover all costs.
This problem with utilities and the need to have a balanced grid infrastructure is much more evident in California , particularly during peak demand periods. The state is trying to minimize the impact of this imbalance by beefing up efforts towards establishing reliable renewable energy infrastructures. However, renewable energy is still new and intermittent and would take a few more years to fully mature.
Energy storage solutions can play a significant role in deferring grid upgrade costs by providing additional storage capabilities at utility scale and reduce the need for additional power plants. On top of that, these systems can also provide energy storage solutions that can be integrated with renewable energy installations which can help address the generation and distribution needs of alternative energy systems.
As the nation’s energy grid heads towards a power infrastructure that is smarter and more efficient, the need to have an advanced energy storage system is made much more evident particularly in areas of facilitating a cleaner and greener means of generating and distributing electricity.
With an efficient energy storage system, peak loads can be smoothen out and thus increase the reliability of the power supply and help minimize the volatility of power rates affected by supply and demand. On top of that renewable energy sources can now be more effectively utilized and would thus accelerate their mainstream adoption by addressing their intermittency issues, making them more predictable and ready for integration into the existing grid.
Not all utilities are aware of the significant benefits advancements in energy storage deployments can bring into the existing infrastructure. This view is changing however now with both state and federal support pouring in to fund various large-scale energy storage projects all aimed at increasing the reliability and efficiency of the power grid.
One of the most significant recent breakthroughs in energy storage technologies is the 8 MW lithium ion battery project in Johnson City in New York which is considered the first battery storage system at utility scale. This is just one of several battery storage projects across the nation that is part of the ancillary services market aimed at stabilizing the power grid. Other states such as California have enacted various policies like this to facilitate progress for advanced energy storage systems.
One example is California ’s Assembly Bill 2514 (AB 2514) which established the guidelines that will allow California ’s municipal and other investor-owned utilities to initiate a storage planning and investment process. These energy storage solutions will be part of the utilities long-term plans of improving the reliability of their transmission and distribution grid.
The following describes upcoming projects in California that will be integrating advanced energy storage systems into their commercial-scale power infrastructure:
- SunPower Corporation – This Company has initiated an advanced energy storage project that combines photovoltaic systems in parallel with energy storage devices that will be operated independently to shift and control the shape of the grid load.
- EnerVault – This start-up aims to develop energy storage system for use with commercial, utility and grid applications using their proprietary redox flow battery technology. Flow energy is seen as the next step in low-cost energy storage solutions that may replace lithium-ion technologies. Used in conjunction with solar farms, generating electricity using renewable means can be made more effective and economically viable.
- Modesto Irrigation District – The facility has a wind farm as part of its energy portfolio. However, the system experiences intermittent supply particularly during high-demand peaks. The facility will be utilizing a flow battery storage facility to address this variability in wind generation and help balance the energy supply by reducing high-peak loads.
- Prudent Energy – Receiving a grant from the California Public Utilities Commission, Prudent Energy will be working with SunPower to develop a clean energy storage project using their patented Vanadium Redox Battery Energy Storage System. The project aims to provide SunPower customers with reduced energy costs by allowing them to draw on stored energy from the battery storage facility whenever the sun is not available.
Further developments in energy storage technologies will focus on integrating these storage systems with renewable energy resources to address their intermittency problems and increase assimilation to the main power grid. Improved energy storage facilities will also help renewable energy sources address transmission constraints brought about by geographical limitations – bringing clean-generated electricity more readily available for public use.