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Feeding the Energy Appetite of the Grid

Feeding the Energy Appetite of the Grid

| David Lentsch, Business Development Manager

The worldwide power grid is hungry.

Long-term energy and short-term power are the menu options. While batteries are perfect for serving up long-term energy, their specialty isn’t in meeting the grid’s fast response, rapid fire, comparatively short duration energy needs. Ultracapacitors, like batteries, are energy storage devices, but are unique in that they specialize in delivering short bursts of power in near instantaneous time frames. The grid’s changing appetite for energy (long-term) and power (short-term) are being satisfied by hybrid battery-ultracapacitor energy storage systems.

To understand the advantages of the battery-ultracapacitor hybrid system, let’s first look at the changes and challenges the current grid faces.

The vanishing traditional grid
The grid was originally designed to be reliable, robust and flexible so that it could deliver energy to customers and be capable of expanding the utility service territory of delivered energy. The grid’s current design is straightforward: power generation plants deliver energy to the utility customers through transmission and distribution lines, substations and distribution transformers.

With the advent of distributed and renewable energy, including solar, wind and fuel cells, the newer renewable power plants are now located closer to utility loads than to central power generation plants. They are directly interconnected to transmission and distribution lines and often to the customer premise.

This new era of distributed power generation has resulted in the departure of traditional one-way power flows from the large generation plant to the customer. The grid is exposed to potentially disruptive multi-directional power flows from solar and wind power generation, whose energy production hallmark is generation intermittency. This was not originally planned for in our grid.

Instability is the major challenge of today’s grid, and has many roots. Daily and seasonal peak utility loads caused by air conditioners, heaters, computer systems, industrial operations and lighting are major contributors. The unpredictable generation profile and resultant intermittency of solar and wind energy also contributes to unreliability in the grid. Bi-directional power flows from newly added forms of distributed energy—including renewables—wreak havoc on utility distribution and transmission lines as well as substations. Throw in the impact of an aging transmission and distribution infrastructure and we now have the need for localized grid energy storage.

The traditional grid is vanishing, and the new needs of the grid are expanding. While traditional grid architectures have done most of the work in the grid, changes in the grid are leading utilities to adopt batteries and ultracapacitors as collaborative technologies that meet the range of the grid’s needs.
Energy storage systems on the rise
Strategically-placed large scale energy storage systems (ESS) are widely accepted as technically sound and economically cost-effective in stabilizing the grid against the complexities of renewable energy and the changing energy demands from local customers.

Fundamentally, energy storage systems are energy parking lots that are strategically placed on the grid to store and release energy when called upon and to add energy and power to the grid.

There are a myriad of grid stabilization applications reaching far beyond the sometimes finicky renewable energy problems described above. Some of these include:

  • matching and balancing energy generation and consumption across entire regions of the United States
  • providing local voltage support on local utility transmission and distribution lines
  • providing high power quality on delivered utility energy to eliminate flicker and momentary outages
  • releasing local energy when needed close to customer premises during high load periods
  • deferring large capital investments made by utilities on a long-term basis where the cost of upgrading the local and system-wide grid is simply cost prohibitive

Ultracapacitors add value to these growing grid stabilization needs by providing power to the grid nearly instantaneously to ensure fast, smooth and reliable energy delivery. Using ultracapacitors in energy storage systems results in stable, seamless power delivery through short and longer term grid instability periods. Utilities are now combining ultracapacitors with batteries in their grid energy storage systems to meet the ultrafast needs of the grid and provide nearly seamless power plus long-term energy delivery.

Battery systems continue to deliver energy over the long grid hours. However, the addition of the ultracapacitor’s "boost" reliably delivers power to meet the second and sub-second needs of the grid. Moreover, the lightning-fast charge time of ultracapacitors results in quenching rapidly occurring and repetitive grid events. Battery plus ultracapacitor hybrid systems, when combined in one energy storage system, solve the short and long-term energy appetites of the grid.

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David LentschDavid Lentsch
Business Development Manager
About this author

David Lentsch’s primary responsibility is business developm ent for utility grid energy storage systems and utility, partner and regulatory engagement. His work involves applying Maxwell Technologies’ ultracapacitor energy storage products to grid applications for increased system reliability. David’s expertise is in working with major investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities, electric cooperatives, and independent system operators. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Kent State University in Ohio where he graduated magna cum laude. He also graduated from the U.S. Naval College where he studied electronics and physics, and served in the United States Coast Guard in their advanced electronic programs.

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