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Smoothing the Flow of Renewable Solar Energy in California’s Central Valley

May 23, 2014 in Battery Energy Storage, Environment, EV News, Greentech, Large Energy Storage

This EnerVault flow battery stores power from the solar panels and releases it as needed.  Photo courtesy of EnerVault

This EnerVault flow battery stores power from the solar panels and releases it as needed.
Photo courtesy of EnerVault

By Dr. Imre Gyuk, US DOE

Yesterday, an almond grove in California’s Central Valley hosted the opening of the world’s largest iron-chromium redox flow battery. Originally pioneered by NASA, these flow batteries are emerging as a promising way to store many hours of energy that can be discharged into the power grid when needed.

Traditionally, electric generation follows the demands of the daily load cycle. But as more sources of renewable generation such as solar and wind are integrated into the power grid, balancing demand and generation becomes more complicated. With energy storage, we can create a buffer that allows us to even out rapid fluctuations and provide electricity when needed without having to generate it at that moment.

Unlike other types of batteries, which are packaged in small modules, iron-chromium flow batteries consist of two large tanks that store liquids (called electrolytes) containing the metals. During discharge, the electrolytes are pumped through an electrochemical reaction cell and power becomes available. To store energy, the process is reversed. With Recovery Act funding from the Department’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, California energy storage company EnerVault has optimized the system to create a more efficient battery.

This pilot project in Turlock, California, can provide 250kW over a four-hour period, helping to ensure the almond trees stay irrigated and the farm is able to save money on its electrical bills.

This is how the system works: The almond trees are most thirsty between noon and 6 p.m. The farm uses nearly 225 kW of electricity to power the pumps that get the water to the trees. Onsite solar photovoltaic panels can supply 186kW at peak power, not quite enough energy for watering the trees throughout the day. The balance could be taken from the grid, but grid electricity is most expensive from noon to 6 p.m.

This is where storage enters.

At night electricity is inexpensive, so the batteries begin to charge up. In the morning the solar panels help top them up the rest of the way. Then, during expensive peak periods, the needs of the trees are satisfied by solar and flow batteries — renewable energy optimized through storage.

While the Turlock facility is a unique application, flow batteries are not just for thirsty almond trees. For example, they could be an especially good solution for small island grids such as Hawaii, where severe wind ramps or rapid changes in photovoltaic generation can destabilize the local grid, or at military bases that need to maintain mission-critical functions.

Similarly, flow batteries paired with renewables can be used in a resilient microgrid that can continue to operate when disasters strike and power outages ensue.

In the face of changing climate conditions, energy storage and grid resiliency have become more critical than ever. Flow battery technology is expected to play a vital role in supporting the grid both in California and across the U.S.

This article is a repost, credit: US DOE.

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Smoothing Renewable Wind Energy in Texas, Source: DOE

April 9, 2013 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Large Energy Storage, Wind

Dr. Imre Gyuk - Energy Storage Program Manager, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Photo courtesy of DOE

Dr. Imre Gyuk – Energy Storage Program Manager, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability
Photo courtesy of DOE

Last month, a small west Texas town was the site of an important first: The commissioning of North America’s largest battery storage project at a wind farm. The Notrees Wind Storage Demonstration Project has implications that may eventually ripple across America, from moving us closer to realizing the potential of renewable energy to improving the reliability and efficiency of the electric grid and increasing our energy independence.

The Notrees Project is one of 16 energy storage demonstration projects supported by the Department under its Recovery Act-funded Smart Grid Energy Storage Demonstration Program. The project received $22 million from DOE, which was matched by $22 million from Duke Energy, for a total of $44 million. The system integration was performed by Xtreme Power.

The 36-megawatt energy storage and power management system, which completed testing and became fully operational in December, shows how energy storage can moderate the intermittent nature of wind by storing excess energy when the wind is blowing and making it available later to the electric grid to meet customer demand.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama described the progress we have made — such as doubling the amount of energy generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar – and urged us to generate more electricity with wind and drive the cost of solar power down even further. Demonstrating the benefits of advanced energy storage technologies such as those used at Notrees can help accelerate the further deployment of renewables.

The Nortrees project is an important pilot project using storage to help stabilize the frequency of electricity provided to the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages approximately 85 percent of the state’s electric load. The Notrees project is expected to help facilitate broader adoption of energy solutions by providing a model for industry to follow. Widespread adoption, in turn, should provide alternatives to fossil-fueled energy — further reducing our dependence on foreign oil — and additional resources to the grid, ultimately leading to a more stable electricity delivery system and lower cost.

An example of another Smart Grid Energy Storage Demonstration Program recipient capturing the attention of industry is Aquion Energy which announced last week that it has received $35 million in venture capital funding to support the commercialization and launch of novel energy storage systems.

Finally, one last important element not to be lost in the conversation: last month’s ribbon-cutting event, where I had the pleasure of representing the Department, marked the successful culmination of collaborative efforts between Duke, the Department, national laboratories, private companies and electricity delivery system operators. Partnerships such as these are vital to continue moving the nation closer to a cleaner, stronger and more secure energy future.

This article is a repost, credit: Department of Energy, Dr. Imre Gyuk, Energy Storage Program Manager, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability,