Yesterday (Oct. 22, 2014) I posted: “CATS: Tehachapi-area project for storing energy North America’s largest.” I presented information on the testing of a battery-storage provision at Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Tehachapi, California Monolith substation.
Do I believe this is a good use of resources and a good idea? I do.
I’ll get to telling you why. But, first a quick review.
Lithium-ion batteries are being utilized for 32 megawatt-hours (MWh) worth of battery storage. The project is for demonstration purposes, according to SCE in its Sept. 24, 2014 news release “SCE Unveils Largest Battery Energy Storage Project in North America.”
Added to this I wrote: “Upon completion of the trial, if successful, demonstrated, obviously, will be the efficacy of the bank of lithium-ion batteries for its ability to store energy.”
In citing SCE I wrote also: “The company moreover stated: ‘Over a two-year period, the project will demonstrate the performance of the lithium-ion batteries in actual system conditions and the capability to automate the operations of the battery energy storage system and integrate its use into the utility grid.’”
But why stop there? I mean, really!
Think for a moment about such batteries and their potential role as energy storage device outside the above-mentioned utility-company application.
A new twist on battery-energy storage?
As I see it, the purpose of battery energy storage is as backup or as a reserve supply.
Where photovoltaics (PV) are used, for example, PV system panels convert natural or ambient light into electrical energy. The electricity, as initially generated, is in the form of Direct Current or DC. Through an inverter system (depicted in the diagram at left) the DC changes into AC or Alternating Current. It is this AC that in a home application, for instance, can supply electricity to power everything from household appliances (refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, heaters, washers, dryers, etc., etc., etc.) to lights, automatic garage door opening and closing systems, and more, provided the electricity is at the appropriate voltage and frequency. Working in conjunction with PV systems could be battery storage banks to store the energy produced by the PV panels, that is, when electricity generated this way is being produced and relied upon specifically at times when it isn’t; say, at night. In this application, the batteries are employed for their reserve capability. And, this could have tremendous implications.
Furthermore, while driving, I sometimes spot portable lighted signs along highways and such that display messages, to alert approaching motorists, for example, that a section of road will be closed and undergoing repairs between such-and-such dates. When passing these signs, what can be readily heard is the sound of gasoline-powered internal-combustion-engine generators that act as power supplies or sources to enable sign operation.
Well, suppose, instead of said gas-powered generators being on all the time, such portable roadway signs were also outfitted with a bank of batteries capable of storing energy such that the gas-powered generators in question do not require being run 24-hours per day, 7 days per week; that is, until such time that the road repair work is done.
Meanwhile, the “supplemental” batteries, if you like, could kick in when sufficiently charged and cut off when said charge is depleted, at which point the generator would restart. No doubt some type of a starter or igniter would be needed to start the generator, but I don’t think an apparatus of this type or complexity is outside the realm of possibility. And think how much air would be improved as a result if such saw widespread use.
Incidentally, such is the basic operational scheme of the gasoline-/electric-powered hybrid motorcar.
Power produced renewably, sustainably and cleanly. There when needed and in reserve when it isn’t – the real beauty behind the principle of battery backup or reserve.
Image (upper): Pearson Scott Foresman
Image (lower): U.S. Department of Energy