What types of big batteries or other energy storage systems will work best with renewable energy and the existing grid to ensure reliable power supplies in the future? A two-year research project under way in Arizona is seeking the answer to that question.
The Energy Storage Management Research and Testing (SMRT) site is being developed through a team effort involving German solar power company SOLON, Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy (AzRISE) at the University of Arizona. Saft Batteries is now the latest to come on board, providing lithium-ion batteries to help support the various tests to take place.
The project’s goal is to test how well different energy storage technologies can work with photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to provide reliable power for the grid. Knowing the best strategies can help utilities make the most of their growing renewable portfolios, which — while providing clean energy — can be harder to manage because of their intermittent nature.
“Storage for renewable energy will be essential for utilities, as they increase the penetration of clean energy generation into the utilities’ grids,” said William Richardson, SOLON’s director of research & development for SOLON Corporation.
The SMRT site (sounds like a James Bond-type organization, doesn’t it?) features a 1.6-megawatt (MW) solar plant built by SOLON that can have accommodate a variety of new or replacement storage technologies for testing. The first phase, launched this August, began with a compressed-air energy storage (CAES) technology that was designed and built by faculty and students at the University of Arizona.
CAES appears to be a good option for longer-term energy storage that can “save up” solar power for hours, days, weeks or longer. On the other hand, lithium-ion batteries might prove the better choice for managing short-term variability — ie, dealing with on-and-off fluctuations in solar power caused by passing clouds. Advanced batteries from Saft are due to arrive at the test site this fall for phase-two tests.
“Reliance on solar, wind and other renewable resources is on the rise, making this a fundamental opportunity to assess Saft’s Li-ion technology and its capabilities,” said Blake Frye, vice president of sales, Energy Storage, for Saft North America.
Additional technologies are scheduled for testing next spring.