Store, Baby, Store: Energy Storage Update

April 2, 2018
Storage will be a key enabler as we move to an ever more distributed future

Back in 2009, the editors of T&D World were first looking into storage as a possible industry game changer. Terry Boston at PJM was successfully supporting the bidding of storage into the grid, albeit in 1-MW chunks or larger. Our own Gene Wolf investigated all aspects of storage technology and application, and delivered our readers the first-ever comprehensive compendium in a storage supplement that dates back to August of 2009. And we have been covering storage continuously in print and online since that time.

Today, storage is going mainstream. We all know that Elon Musk and others are building battery gigafactories, partly for his Tesla vehicles and partly to provide storage to the grid. I had the opportunity to visit Oncor’s microgrid where a Tesla battery system is now installed. Scores of utilities are dipping their toes into the storage water with each application having a different twist.

There are at least three non-profits focusing that now focus on grid-scale storage.

If you are going to go to only one event, I would recommend the Exposition put on by the Energy Storage Association (ESA). I went to their expo two years ago when it was held in Charlotte. I learned about all sorts of storage technologies in various stages of development, from the ready-for-primetime lithium ion market to zinc and vanadium flow batteries to down-the-road liquid air storage solutions.

While in Charlotte, I had the opportunity to talk with Duke’s Sherif Abdelrazek while I toured Duke’s solar and energy storage test site at their Marshall steam plant. Duke had installed a Kokam 750-kWh, 250-kW lithium polymer battery storage system equipped with S&C inverters and controls. Duke is actively investigating ways it can dispatch the Kokum batteries into the grid whether for peak control, stability control or to reduce feeder loads. 

Another association, the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries (NAATBatt) promotes the manufacture of advanced lithium-ion batteries and other advanced energy storage devices in the United States and to advance the science of large scale electrochemical energy storage. I am also fond of SEPA, which was started by electric utilities to look at grid-scale solar but has expanded to investigate storage and demand response; essentially focusing on all components that will make up distributed energy resources.

Now coming into 2018, I am seeing all sorts of utility storage installations being connected to the grid. Here is the craziest one I received (But the more I think about it, the less crazy it seems):

On a ridge outside Gaildorf, Germany, Max Bogl Wind AG installed the world’s tallest wind turbines with hub heights varying from 155 to 178 meters. The four turbines installed generate up to 10 GWh per year each. That is just huge! But here is the cool part. This installation is designed to include pumped hydro with water stored in pools located within the tower foundations. Now that is uber creative.  These pools can generate an additional 70MWh of pumped storage that can be disbursed for up to four hours.  The electricity is generated using GE 3MW class generators along with software and analysis available over GE’s Predix cloud platform.

The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) has installed a 30 MW, 20 MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system (BESS) The battery system performs a couple of roles. IT enables the district to black-start units at its El Centro generation station. The battery system provides the needed frequency regulation and power balancing to deal with the fluctuations that come with renewables. It also effectively provides spinning reserves by acting as extra generating capacity. This is an elegant solution to multiple issues. In this case, battery storage systems improve the ability to integrate IID’s portfolio of renewables, especially new solar photovoltaic plants, into the local grid. The desert valley also is home to geothermal plants and wind farms that, like all renewables, present challenges for managing the energy streams. In addition, the battery system enables the district to black-start units at its El Centro generation station and supplement backup energy resources while acting as extra generating capacity, called a spinning reserve.

On the customer side, Arizona Public Service Company (APS) has just started deploying a fleet of Sunverge One storage units in the Phoenix area to help the utility shape load curves while helping customers hold down their energy bills.

And more is being done on the technology front by the Department of Energy. Michael Pesin, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Advanced Grid Research & Development invited me and a few of my friends to come visit him in Washington, D.C. So, on Dec. 7, I met with Resin and the aforementioned  Terry Boston, Wanda Reder, former president of IEEE PES and corporate strategist for S&C, and  Dave Roop, director of electric transmission, operations & reliability with Dominion Energy. We spent a couple of hours in one of the most engaging discussions I’ve had in my 23 years here at T&D World.  We touched on distributed energy resources, cybersecurity, resource management systems and more. But we spent a lot of time talking about innovations in storage. Pesin told me that energy storage will be a key focus for the DOE. I offered Pesin access to our audience as he looks for demonstration sites for upcoming storage technologies.

I’m not one of those who believe that storage or any single technology will address our energy needs.. But I am one who believes that storage will be a key enabler as we move to an ever more distributed future.

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