Storing electricity on a large scale has long been pursued by electric utilities in hopes of using the power to cover periods of peak demand. The ability to store large amounts of power would help power producers fill the production gaps created by growing amounts of intermittent generation such as solar and wind power.
During the first half of 2014, the amount of wind and solar capacity added in the U.S. more than doubled versus the first half of 2013. The U.S. added 2,478 MW of residential, commercial and utility-scale solar capacity during the first six months of 2014 while wind power accounted for 675 MW of new generation capacity. In California, state law requires power providers to generate 33 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2020.
Utilities and grid managers are struggling to maintain a balanced load amid the growing amount of intermittent generation. A capable system for storing large amounts of power could bring more balance to supply and demand, making the grid more resilient and efficient.
But efforts to develop cost-effective, grid-scale storage solutions have yielded limited progress. The technology is still grounded in the demonstration stage, although companies are accelerating their research and development efforts amid a historic mandate in California.
The market for large scale energy storage technologies received a big boost in October 2013, when California adopted the nation’s first energy storage mandate. The measure requires the state’s investor-owned electric utilities to buy 1.3 GW of energy storage capacity by the end of 2020.
The California mandate has accelerated the development of storage technologies and may yield a workable solution. The most promising technology is the lithium ion battery, a rechargeable battery used in electric vehicles.
Last month, Southern California Edison unveiled plans to build one of the largest battery storage systems in the world. The $53 million project will use lithium ion batteries to store excess wind power. Nearly 11,000 battery modules will be housed in a 6,300 square-foot facility near California’s Tehachapi Mountains, where 4.5 GW of wind capacity is under construction and expected to be online by the end of 2016.
“This installation will allow us to take a serious look at the technological capabilities of energy storage on the electric grid,” said Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager for the U.S. Department of Energy. “It will also help us to gain a better understanding of the value and benefit of battery energy storage.”
Worldwide, the demand for large-scale energy storage solutions, particularly lithium ion batteries, is significant.
“The grid-scale energy storage market continues to develop in a piecemeal fashion, but there are signals that it is poised for significant expansion in the coming years,” says Anissa Dehamna, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “In particular, after several years of faltering growth, lithium ion batteries are emerging as the breakout technology in this sector.”
According to a new report from Navigant Research, worldwide revenue from batteries designed for utility-scale storage will grow from $164 million in 2014 to more than $2.5 billion in 2023. During the same period, storage capacity from advanced batteries will grow from 412 megawatt-hours (MWh) to more than 51,000 MWh, the report shows.
Other states may follow California’s lead and adopt similar requirements. Texas and New York are aggressively pursuing several initiatives to promote the development and commercial application of grid-scale energy storage.
Home to more than 10,000 MW of wind power capacity, Texas has become a major testing ground for storage technology. Duke Energy built a large lead acid battery storage facility near a wind farm in west Texas. Dresser-Rand plans to build a 317-MW storage facility for compressed air in east Texas. In New York, state officials announced a $23 million public-private investment to build a battery storage test and commercialization center in partnership with NY-BEST.
What follows is a description of just a few of the companies positioned to take advantage of this emerging market.
ABB, a $45 billion company based in Zurich Switzerland, has been involved in the energy storage industry since the late 1990s.
With energy projects totaling approximately 140 MW globally, ABB provides the power conversion system, control and EPC services for installations around the world, but does not manufacture the energy storage medium. Pat Hayes, Business Development Manager of Energy Storage said, “ABB brings together multiple technologies such as flywheels, ultracapacitors, various battery formats, and uninterruptible power supplies in order to meet our customers’ unique needs.”
In 2003, ABB completed the Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) for the Golden Valley Electric Association in Alaska. The installation uses nickel-cadmium battery technology from Saft and can provide 27 MW of power for 15 minutes, enough time to start up local generation should problems arise with Golden Valley’s primary plants in Anchorage or Fairbanks.
The company also served as the lead EPC provider for a 1-MW project in Switzerland. Teaming with LG Chem, ABB installed a containerized battery system with SCADA, PV inverter and fast-charge EV systems.
AES Corp. is an energy solutions company that operates in six strategic business units across 21 countries. With diversified interests in multiple sectors of the industry, the company operates utilities and power plants that utilize coal, natural gas, wind, solar, hydro, and energy storage technologies.
The company has worked in energy storage for six years and currently has 200 MW of energy storage resources, primarily in the U.S. and Chile. Chris Shelton, President of AES Energy Storage said, “AES seeks to demonstrably improve lives with electricity. We do not undertake R&D or other purely scientific endeavors. Rather, we focus on commercial projects that can impact quality of life through the market.”
AES performs technical validation at its Battery Integration Center in Indianapolis, as well as at its Storage Application Center at the headquarters of PJM. The company focuses on sealed lithium ion batteries, but they are technology agnostic, working with multiple manufacturing partners and remaining open to future innovation.
Their Advancion battery system is meant to replace peaking power plants, which utilize combustion turbines and operate an average of only 6 percent of the time. “Battery solutions can provide clean standby flexibility, allowing combined cycle plants to efficiently produce energy,” said Shelton. “This minimizes reliance on less efficient combustion technologies.”
Partnering with PJM, AES completed two battery projects that significantly reduced the dispatch of fossil fuels through the safe use of the energy storage facilities. The projects are expected to save PJM utilities $200 million across their life cycles, and the company will enjoy the highest reliability and lowest cost of service in years.
Shelton noted, “New technology research is exciting and gets headlines, but if we focus too intently on these aspirational technologies we risk overlooking lithium ion batteries, which are quite robust and competitively priced. We shouldn’t wait for the latest innovation to come out of MIT when there are good solutions that are available today, and right in front of us.”
Convergent Energy + Power is an integrated asset developer that provides project-specific planning and execution of energy storage solutions. The New York City-based company does not design or manufacture technology. Rather, it teams with utilities and large end-users to manage projects from the beginning stage of evaluating client needs; on through to contracting, financing, and site design; and finally to engineering, technology procurement, and construction. Following project completion, the company also operates and maintains these assets to provide a full, reliable solution at little-to-no risk to the customer.
“Energy storage solutions provide a way for utilities and end-users to reduce cost and create value using technology that is available now,” Managing Director Johannes Rittershausen said. “That’s a key point, because these projects don’t rely on technology that is in the development stage and which will only be refined at some indistinct date in the future.”
Rittershausen notes that electric infrastructure is typically designed and built on a decade-long planning horizon to satisfy energy supply needs at a forecasted peak-hour, -day, and -year. However, when peak load grows and demand outstrips supply, these utilities must either upgrade the grid itself or find another solution that allows them to supplement existing infrastructure and balance out these pressures. Energy storage assets such as battery banks and flywheels can provide solutions to these problems, thereby creating greater efficiencies from existing infrastructure and providing major cost savings when accurately located and operated to solve specific constraints. He also notes that these solutions can be rapidly deployed and create no on-site emissions or noise impacts, thus providing low-barrier options for utility planners and building owners.
Convergent Energy + Power was recently awarded 12 MWs of projects in Ontario for the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and has a pipeline of contracted projects for large building owners in New York City, as well as for utilities in the Northeast U.S.
Eos Energy Storage develops and manufactures DC integrated battery systems based on its proprietary ZnythTM (zinc hybrid cathode) technology. The company is working with eight global utility partners as part of its Genesis program, which supports product development and demonstration. Partnering with NRG, Con Edison, AEP and Enel among others, Eos has agreements with utilities whose combined global infrastructure includes 350 MW of power and 1.8 million miles of transmission and distribution lines servicing over 80 million customers.
Phillipe Bouchard, vice president of Business Development for Eos, said, “Our goal is not simply to outcompete other energy storage technologies economically, but also to outcompete incumbent solutions. This means, for example, that batteries used in peak load reduction must not only be competitive with other battery technologies, but also be less expensive than gas peaking turbines and copper wire typically used to provide this capacity. Ultimately, our success is measured by one key metric: can we provide electricity at a lower levelized cost than these incumbent solutions? With this goal in mind, we are working to develop and deliver an energy storage solution optimized for low up-front capital , longevity, safety, energy density and efficiency.”
Eos has been selective in its partnerships to ensure that it can demonstrate success across the full spectrum of business and regulatory models, including vertically-integrated utilities, transmission and distribution owners, independent power producers, and customer-facing service providers.
By 2016, Eos plans to have transitioned its ZnythTM technology from the prototype stage to a full-scale Aurora DC battery system. Enclosed in a 40-foot ISO container, the Aurora 1000/6000 will provide 1 MW of electricity for six hours at a targeted price of $160/kW-hr. The technology will utilize the company’s aqueous zinc-based electrochemistry in a sealed static-cell sub module design and is projected to have a service life of 10,000 charge/discharge cycles.
S&C Electric Company
S&C Electric Company holds grid-scale battery technologies totaling 47 MW of commissioned power. Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the century-old company has manufacturing facilities across North America and around the world.
S&C does not manufacture batteries, but works with a variety of supply partners who provide five major battery technologies to meet client needs. These include: lithium ion, sodium sulfur, sodium nickel chloride, advanced lead acid, and ultra-battery, essentially an ultracapacitor combined with lead acid technology.
The company has completed multiple energy storage projects including a 6 MW facility for UK Power Networks designed to relieve transmission congestion, and a 1 MW facility for BC Hydro designed to improve grid reliability.
S&C manufactures its switching and automation technologies in Chicago, and its PureWave SMS technology outside Milwaukee in Franklin, Wisconsin. Operating as the “brains” that renders energy storage deployable, PureWave SMS is S&C’s power conditioning system that converts stored energy into a voltage and current that utilities can utilize.
Troy Miller, manager of Business Development and Product Management for S&C’s Power Quality Products Division said, “S&C is excited about the future of the electrical grid and foresees a coming transformation from last century’s grid to a modern grid in which utilities and their customers will have to manage two-way power flows and distributed generation behind the meter. We are pioneering the use of energy storage as an essential part of that transformation.”