Energy storage system “solves” solar intermittency

Energy storage system “solves” solar intermittencyAs President Barack Obama takes heat over one failed solar investment, another funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has successfully launched the first utility-scale grid-tied solar energy storage system.

The Prosperity Energy Storage Project in Albuquerque, N.M., can produce 500 kilowatts of power and uses high-tech batteries to create firm and dispatchable energy derived from a renewable energy source.

S&C Electric Company’s inverter and control system arrived at the site in a 20-foot shipping container, said Jim Sember, the company’s vice president of power quality products. The two different types of lead-acid batteries, designed to collect and store the sun’s energy during peak production times and dispatch it when production dips due to cloud cover or fading day, arrived in eight separate shipping containers, Sember said.

“This is really exciting,” Sember said. “It’s the first ARRA-funded project like this to come online.”

The battery storage system has been operational about two weeks and is working just as it is supposed to, Sember said. The breakthrough is significant because it means one of the biggest arguments against renewable energy—its intermittency—can be eradicated.

Sember explained the technology.

There are two sets of batteries. The first is an advanced lead-acid battery that has been enhanced with carbon so it can have an extremely high cycle and long life. It collects electricity during the sun’s peak production hours and releases power in the late afternoon when the sun is not as strong, but when power demand spikes, Sember said.

The second technology on site is a lead-acid ultra battery, which blends the power of a battery with an ultra capacitor, Sember said. It collects and stores power and is then able to distribute it in spurts as clouds pass over.

“It smoothes out and mitigates that intermittency,” Sember said. “You don’t want your lights flickering every time a cloud passes over.”

The cutting-edge, first-of-its kind technology in Albuquerque brought a lot of experts and companies together from different realms of the technology world, Sember said.

“We do have a pivotal role in that,” Sember said.

S&C Electric Company’s inverter system is huge and complex. It controls two different sets of batteries doing two different things at the same time.

And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to energy storage technology, Sember said.

“This is a really exciting time,” he said. “There are lots of different battery technologies just now entering commercialization.”

Image courtesy of S&C Electric Company.