The state of California is leading the way in the use and development of energy storage, a relatively new technology that the Department of Energy (DOE) is calling a potential “major breakthrough” within the energy sector.
Recently, California-based electrical supply company Southern California Edison decided to retire its San Onofre nuclear reactors (pictured) and also plan to retire its natural gas units. The company says the natural gas units have had trouble being “environmentally friendly” in their cooling process. Their solution? Invite proposals for energy storage, including conventional batteries and giant ice packs and new gas-fired power plants. In an unusual competition held in California, proposals for energy storage systems beat out hundreds of bids to construct new power plants as a way to meet peak power needs. Southern California Edison, the largest subsidiary of Edison International, is the primary electricity supply company for much of Southern California. The company provides 14 million people with electricity across approximately 50,000 square miles.
The beauty of energy storage is that its goal is to manage the amount of power required to supply customers at times when need is greatest. In some cases, power plants are needed only a few hundred hours the entire year, usually during peak-production times. With energy storage, companies like Southern California Edison are able to drastically cut electricity costs by producing it when it is needed most and producing less energy when it’s needed less. Currently, the Department of Energy is looking into ways to reduce the cost of energy storage technology and power electronics to gain and accelerate acceptance into the energy market.
The DOE is researching and developing energy storage technology in a number of areas that differ in power and energy requirements. The energy storage technology platform includes batteries (both conventional and advanced), flywheels, electrochemical capacitors, superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES), power electronics, and control systems. What are some of these platforms?
- Flywheels – A rotating mechanical device that is used to store rotational energy. Flywheels have a significant moment of inertia and thus resist changes in rotational speed. Energy is transferred to a flywheel by applying torque to it, thereby increasing its rotational speed, and hence its stored energy.
- Electrochemical capacitors – Consists of two electrodes, a separator, electrolyte, two current collectors, and packaging. Within the electrochemical capacitor, charge is stored electrostatically, not chemically as in a battery.
- Power Electronics – Enables utilities to deliver power to their customers effectively while providing increased reliability, security, and flexibility to the electric power system. Power electronics will play a key role in transforming the current electric grid into the next-generation grid.
The application of these electronic storage devices will also help in making renewable energy, whose power output cannot be controlled by grid operators, smooth and dispatchable. The devices can also balance microgrids to achieve a good match between generation and load. One company is already ahead of the curve when it comes to developing energy storage technology.
The Latest on: Energy storage
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The Latest on: Energy storage
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