Utility SCE wants A123 Systems to build largest grid storage battery

Southern California Edison (SCE) is seeking a US grant to store wind power in the largest-ever grid storage battery to be built by A123 Systems, Reuters reported on 26 Aug 2009.

Utility SCE is requesting $65 million in grants from the US DOE for the pilot storage project ($25 million for this project) and for another project involving integration of home energy management systems into the electric grid. SCE is seeking the money from the DOE’s $615 million fund for smart grid-related pilot projects. Smart grid technology measures and modifies power usage in homes and businesses, improving grid reliability.

Wind and solar are intermittent energy sources and storing the power at economically viable rate is seen as crucial to making alternative energy truly mainstream. Hence, SCE wants privately-held A123 Systems to assemble a 32-MW-hour utility-scale battery that would be made up of smaller batteries in an 8,000-square-foot building at an existing substation in the Tehachapi region in California.

The project is expected to have about 4,500MW of wind power by 2015 and needs to find a way to store the power. The battery would stabilize the flow of wind power from the mountains to the utility’s load centers to the west and south and that could free up about 300MW of wind power that might otherwise be undeliverable if the utility had transmission line problems in the region.

For the second pilot project on smart grid integration, SCE is seeking $40 million from the DOE and will be working with GE, SunPower Corp and Boeing Co. IBM and Cisco may also play a part in the project.

Separately, another California utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co, is seeking $25 million from the DOE’s smart grid fund for a compressed air energy storage project, which aims to pump compressed air into an underground reservoir, using mainly wind energy produced during non-peak hours. The air would be released to generate electricity during periods of peak demand.

Batteries, whether the more expensive lithium ion or cheaper sodium sulfur and flow batteries, are still far more expensive than compressed air energy storage (CAES). According to the Electric Power Reserach Institute, it’s among the cheapest, besides pumping water uphill and letting it flow to spin a turbine – another technology limited by the availability of water and reservoirs to hold it. PG&E’s Helms Pumped Storage Facility is one such “pumped hydro” storage project.

Still, backers of grid batteries – as well as systems like flywheels and fuel cells – say they could lower prices as more systems get deployed.

Sources:
Utility wants to deploy largest grid battery ever
SoCal Edison Wants A123’s Biggest Grid Battery Ever
PG&E Wants DOE Dollars for Underground Air Energy Storage

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