How Grid Energy Storage Applies In Today’s Growing Market

Grid Energy Storage Battery Blog Post ImageI’ll admit that when I first started delving into the opportunities of energy storage my assumptions were a little pie-in-the-sky. I formed dreamy images of car-sized battery packs that would sit next to wind turbines at night while the nearby world was sleeping, and be trucked to the bustling metropolis by day to unload all the energy a few of their resident and business complexes would need. Global warming was reversed, dirty energy pollution was halted in its tracks, and happy, smiling farmers leasing little pieces of their land to wind turbine developers were thriving despite falling crop prices. What I was seeing in my head was the potential of energy storage to leverage off-peak energy production for high peak need times in a very big way.

The reality is that this sort of hours-and-hours-of-electricity-generation-saved-for-later, whenever, wherever use model would require not car-loads, but city block-loads of advanced battery tech to fly, and at prices too steep to make sense in today’s power market. Of course, this could change very fast if tax credits such as those proposed in the U.S. Energy Storage Act go through, and the demand for these technologies continues to push the tech possibility envelope, but obviously, we’re not quite there yet.

But however ahead of themselves my early visions may have been, grid-level energy storage application is very much alive and well today, indeed helping to make renewable energy especially useful in the face of growing grid demands. How is it working? Namely, by leveling out the intermittency problems (and headaches) that renewable sources give grid operators. Let’s take a look at the award-winning Laurel Mountain wind power and energy storage project in West Virginia to highlight.

In the fall of 2011, AES Energy Storage, in conjunction with AES Wind Generation, announced full commercial operation of the 98 MW wind generation project called AES Laurel Mountain. The project includes 32 MW of integrated battery energy storage, the largest of its kind. The storage provides valuable frequency regulation to the local PJM utility market while helping to manage output change rates that can occur in shifting wind conditions. Basically, it gives short boosts of energy to the grid as needed on a second-by-second basis, storing and unloading short intervals of energy as it goes.

The function of frequency regulation is one of the biggest applications and therefore opportunities for advanced battery energy storage out there today. Because frequency regulation will continue to be a very important aspect of grid operation, especially as renewable energy standards put more and more wind and solar on the grid, it is a key driver to energy storage industry growth – one reason why proven, reliable storage options like advanced Lithium-Ion batteries will continue to be a sought after and well-backed technology.

In a Laurel Mountain project press release, Terry Boston, PJM president and CEO said, “Energy storage technology is the silver bullet that helps resolve the variability in power demand… Combining wind and solar with storage provides the greatest benefit to grid operations and has the potential to achieve the greatest economic value.”

And in another potent nutshell, Gary Rackliffe, vice president of smart grids North America for ABB Inc., was quoted recently in the Forbes article Energy Storage: Costly but Key to Power Production, states, “The challenge with the grid is that the load is not uniform… Energy storage balances those demands and addresses the issue of variability.”

The West Virginia wind project isn’t the only place we’re seeing the power of advanced battery technology put to use to provide more reliability to energy grids. This year, AES launched their second high-profile storage project in Northern Chile. This description from a recent AES press release highlights not only the features of its new Chile storage array, and the success of an earlier and similar project in the region, but also of the basic frequency regulation function energy storage provides:

Designed, built and operational in just fifteen months, the energy storage system provides superior speed and response to any system reliability event such as loss of transmission, or loss of a power generator. Fast response enables the power system operator to maintain and restore the grid with less shedding of load from customers or other disruptive actions. In 2011, the first 12MW project in Los Andes was noted by the region’s grid operator, CDEC-SING, as one of the best performing reserve units in Northern Chile.

So, while my imagined macro-scale plains-to-city portable battery packs may not be a thing of today, and it’s yet unseen when they might be reality in the future, I’ve got plenty to be excited and even dreamy about. The real-life, real-time application of grid-scale energy storage is a powerful driver in today’s advancement of battery tech, making every electron count a little more. Today’s innovations will only lead to more, and the future looks a little brighter because of it.

(For those who want to dig in a little more to the technical aspects of frequency regulation in a business management-friendly language, I recommend John Peterson’s 2008 article Alternative Energy Storage: Why Frequency Regulation Is Important. Peterson, a former Axion Power International director, gives great insight into the differences of load variability between fossil fuel and renewable energy sources.) 

Heather Philipp, VP Marketing, BeVault Inc.

Why Energy Storage Will Give Commercial Operations an Edge

Commercial Building Energy StorageGrid-based energy storage, battery storage solutions for renewable energy application, and effective storage technologies that reduce power and energy intermittence problems are leading topics in today’s energy media and across a variety of R&D initiatives. We strongly agree that widespread adoption of storage across energy infrastructures will be key to solving our growing electricity supply challenges. But we’re also strong advocates for storage applied closer to home, or office, as it were.

Commercial buildings can (and do) reap an amazing array of benefits from installed storage technologies. Be it thermal or electrochemical storage tech, key benefits of installing energy storage at business locations like large office buildings, manufacturing facilities, warehouses and multi-use commercial structures are many and far-reaching. Notably, commercial building energy storage:

  • Delivers higher reliability and consistency.

If your operations require power and energy intensity, and its consistency directly affects the quality and/or efficiency of your output, the reliable, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that advanced battery storage delivers in an otherwise intermittent supply situation will directly benefit operations on the line and thus output-related financials.

  • Reduces your peak electricity demand charges.

If your utility passes along the varying cost of electricity (time of use/ TOU rates), you know that the energy you pull off the grid at peak hours of your operation are more expensive than at times of low demand respective to needs of average regional users. Storage will help you load up on energy in off-peak hours at a lower cost so that you can utilize it when you most need it at the reduced rate.

  • Creates future budgetary security.

Energy costs are volatile and will likely only increase as demand grows, generation technologies struggle to meet the demand, and resources become scarcer. The reduced costs of energy now via storage applications will increase financial security for you in the future.

  • Promotes higher utilization of your energy infrastructure.

Since energy storage will help reduce your energy costs, you’ll better empower your employees – from operations managers to entry-level thermostat lovers – to more freely use energy to increase production and service quality or simply make the working environment more comfortable to increase personal productivity.

  • Prepares you for smart grid interaction.

Even if your buildings aren’t connected to a smart grid now, they likely will be in the future. Energy storage is a key element of building-smart grid interaction and will help you deal effectively with intermittency issues from and to the grid, especially as more renewable technologies are utilized.

  • Provides potential tax break incentives.

Depending on your location, installing energy storage may result in tax breaks for your business that offset the cost of installation. Energy storage is increasingly regarded as a stand-alone technology within alternative energy incentive programs that also incentivize installed renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. In the U.S., the Energy Storage Act of 2012 may provide up to a 30% tax break, though some already exist in states such as California and Texas.

Whether you develop commercial properties in the heart of America or head up operations for a major manufacturing company based in China, energy storage will provide you considerable, consistent budgetary savings that help stretch your profit margins. If you then pass those savings to your clients and customers, you’ll see that investment stretch your returns exponentially. With commercial energy storage, the bottom line is your bottom line.

If you’re looking seriously at the benefits of energy storage for your business, BeVault and companies like ours can help you put together a needs assessment and strategy to start reducing your costs and increasing the productivity of your energy in the short and long terms. Contact us.

If you are searching for a more in-depth look at commercial energy storage applications, technological potential, market trends, and contributing factors to industry growth, check out Pike Research’s recent report Energy Storage in Commercial Buildings

Donald Sadoway’s TED Talk on Grid Energy Storage for Renewable Energy

Donald Sadoway’s recent TED Talk “The missing link to renewable energy” has gone viral, and in the face of our national and world energy needs, the huge potential of renewable energy sources to meet those needs, and hundreds of organizations invested in just that, there’s little question why.

Sadoway’s key point is that the way to address renewable energy’s problems of intermittency is with storage. He asserts, and much of the battery energy storage industry is growing up around the principle, that the battery is the enabling device that will finally make renewables the go-to source for electricity in the world. He talks about a specific kind of liquid metal battery he is developing, but the assertions of application apply to a broad range of energy storage technologies being developed today. Sadoway does a good job in this talk of pointing out ways of applying lessons learned during his work at MIT to support development across the spectrum of grid energy storage possibilities; definitely worth a watch (and a share).

“With a giant battery, we’d be able to address the problem of intermittency that prevents wind and solar from contributing to the grid in the same way that coal and gas and nuclear do today.” – Donald Sadoway, TED 2012