Energy storage 2013 and beyond

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Smart grid energy storage technologies, and related software applications, experienced significant advancements in 2013. Utilities around the world deployed new energy storage systems and participated in pilot projects aimed at producing a more dependable and sustainable grid. Recent announcements of several key energy storage projects demonstrate expanding strategies in the industry.

Energy storage hardware advancements have produced more affordable and innovative solutions, while software designed to maximize energy storage capacity has emerged. These announcements open new arenas for energy storage allowing it to be deployed in more locations while increasing storage capacity.

Renewable Energy Storage Technology

Projects announced or expanded in 2013 highlight new advancements in grid-scale, renewable energy storage technology. First, City University of New York’s (CUNY) Energy Institute announced their zinc-manganese dioxide and zinc-nickel oxide batteries.

The near future will offer more affordable energy storage technology that will operate without energy loss for longer periods.

Zinc anode rechargeable batteries provide a high capacity at a reduced price, and are cost competitive with lead acid batteries. CUNY teamed with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and Con Edison, to produce the innovative battery line. Zinc anode batteries are non-toxic, safe, and recyclable, with a multi-year life span. In addition, the batteries can operate for years without capacity loss.

Manganese dioxide cathodes have been developed in conjunction with the DOE’s Advanced Research Project’s Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) group. The chemical is low-priced, thus reducing cost to less than $100/kWh, a price threshold DOE believes will open the technology to the utility market. In addition, the batteries can be operated for more than 2,000 cycles, extending the life span of the product.

The research group also engineered a method to limit dendrite production in the battery. The group is currently working on zinc-nickel oxide industrial scale batteries that will operate without loss for more than 5000 cycles, with a high capacity charge that will recharge in less than an hour and could soon be commercialized.

In another hardware-side development, Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES) introduces the concept of pumped hydro energy storage to landlocked areas. The environmentally friendly design makes energy storage more accessible for utilities to support and benefit from renewable energy generation. ARES works in conjunction with wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources. The technology pumps specially designed rail cars to a higher location when there is an energy surplus. When conditions change due to wind or solar energy intermittency, or when demand increases, the cars are released, generating energy that is supplied to the grid. The ARES system is emission free and does not use fuel or water.

The system can be implemented in a limited area (currently using a five mile track) and responds in seconds to changes in demand. It can also provide uninterrupted power for up to eight hours.

The ARES system can provide back-up power supply in previously inaccessible areas and provides another way for utilities to support their energy system.

Clearly, the near future will offer more affordable energy storage technology that will operate without energy loss for longer periods. This will allow the technology to be utilized in more locations and in different situations, allowing penetration into additional markets.

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Energy Storage Valuation

Meanwhile, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has announced its Energy Storage Valuation Tool (ESVT). The modeling application takes smart grid data and its storage technology and creates a value measurement that allows the user to maximize capacity. The system allows the user to fine-tune all energy storage components.

Energy storage software that allows increased control and efficiency of energy storage solutions show the potential applications that will truly integrate energy storage into the smart grid.

The project unfolded when the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) needed to analyze cases identified by stakeholders and lacked a tool to conduct this analysis. CPUC turned to EPRI, which has performed energy storage research for years. The program is able to analyze energy storage on a case-by-case or system-wide basis, and provide insights to maximize capacity. In addition, through advanced modeling applications, the tool is also able to analyze real-world situations and project how changes would affect capacity. ESVT comes at a time when the CPUC has announced new regulations requiring investor owned utilities to purchase 1.3 GW of storage by 2020.

These recent announcements in the energy storage field demonstrate emerging energy storage options available for utilities, commercial facilities, and residential markets. In addition, the announcement of energy storage software that allow increased control and efficiency of energy storage solutions show the potential applications that will truly integrate energy storage into the smart grid.

Pilot projects implementing these technologies continue to scale up, and will be introduced to the smart grid market in the near future, driving further developments in the energy storage field. These technologies are important because they show groundbreaking research and development moving to meet many diverse energy production and storage situations. They also demonstrate advances that will allow greater efficiency and capacity, which will result in a more dependable and resilient smart grid as a whole.