PG&E’s 4 MW battery bank
A ribbon-cutting, and some words no doubt on the profound value of storage technology to back up intermittent renewables. The hosts, PG&E and the CEC; the location, the HGST facility in east San Jose for the official launch of the Yerba Buena Battery Storage Pilot Project.
The battery energy storage system is designed to accommodate for excess and deficit periods of power capacity. The system charges batteries when demand is low and then sends stored power to the grid when demand grows. The system has the potential to balance energy supply and demand, helping to support greater integration of intermittent renewable generation, as well as improving power quality and reliability for customers.
The battery in focus is sodium-sulfur with a 4-megawatt capacity. It can store more than six hours of energy. The project was made possible thanks to a $3.3 million grant from the California Energy Commission to PG&E that will support the installation and evaluation of the system.
There is considerable activity in the battery space domestically and in Europe. A survey by IMS Research with respondents from Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom found that energy storage was rated more critical than any other requirement for future inverters.
Respondents suggested that 40% of PV systems in their target areas will be backed up by 2015. And what is an acceptable premium? The survey found 10 -29% was anticipated and acceptable. In May, and as part of a new $30 million initiative, Germany began providing incentives for homeowners with solar systems to add battery backup.
Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have teamed up again to introduce a bill in Washington to promote energy storage, specifically electricity storage to cover peak periods. The bill provides a 30% investment tax credit for businesses that install storage technologies; the same tax credit is extended to homeowners. A 20% tax credit – up to $40 million per project – is also slated for grid-scale storage systems.
Bill Gates and other investors see the value of the energy storage market too and have recently invested $35 million in Aquion Energy, a company developing water-based battery system for large and small-scale energy storage to supplement the grid. In these batteries, the anode is made of carbon, the cathode made of sodium and magnesium oxide, and a water-based electrolyte. Aquion batteries can hold charges for 2 – 6 hours, and can endure 5,000+ charging cycles. The company plans factories that will produce batteries capable of storing 500 MWh in 2013 and 2014.
Meanwhile, Bill Gates’ friend Warren Buffet is lighting up the press with Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings buying Nevada’s largest utility, NV Energy, for $5.9 billion. The Las Vegas-based utility has 8.4 million customers. In contrast to the high-tech Bill Gates, the 82-year old Buffet is the master of investments in basics like socks, candies, and soda. He has commented in the past on the “attractive fundamentals of regulated utilities,” with earnings power even under adverse conditions. Buffet has long stated that owning utilities is not a good way to get rich, but a good way to stay rich!