Looking Past the Inauguration – A Bright Future for Energy Storage and Ultracapacitors?
January 23, 2017 | Dr. Henning M. Hauenstein, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy
With last week’s presidential inauguration, we’re looking ahead to a new year. We saw how the energy storage industry succeeded over the last half of a decade, and where it was challenged. Now, we look forward to seeing how the energy storage industry develops over the next five years.
The future of energy storage
Global energy consumption is growing fast – and an obvious indicator of pollution is the smog we see in big cities. They suffer from smog conditions caused by coal-fired power plants and uncontrolled exhaust emissions from automotive combustion engines. To increase the share of cleaner, renewable energy sources like wind turbines and solar energy, we need to solve one fundamental problem: the changes in availability and generation rates of natural energy sources.
Wind patterns are on or off, and the sun doesn’t always shine. Natural power sources have intermittent availability and varying efficiencies. We need solid energy storage infrastructure and grid stabilizing equipment to effectively and reliably use natural energy sources. Ultracapacitors offer a solution to these problems. With quick charge and discharge capabilities, excellent cycle performance, and high power capabilities, ultracapacitors can handle even the most severe peak loads. As we continue to see a growing demand for energy storage in the near future, capacitive energy storage technology will penetrate the market.
After the internet bubble and years of increasing needs for "data storage" and "data distribution," we will now see the "energy demand bubble." Energy storage and distribution will be at the center of attention for governments, societies and businesses. Our societies develop quickly, based on a need for uninterrupted energy, which requires a reliable power grid. This grid infrastructure needs to be capable of handling varying power swings caused by peak loads in demand and generation. Research and development will focus on solving this energy storage problem and making uninterrupted energy safe and available.
Challenges and opportunities for ultracapacitor technology
At the beginning of a revolution, new technologies are more expensive. Plus, it takes time for them to gain maturity and prove reliability in the field. It is a big challenge for new technology solutions to be accepted and overcome investment costs. The industry needs the right support in terms of resources, investments and public funding to supply clean energy at the growth rate the world demands.
There are huge opportunities to implement ultracapacitors in a range of applications worldwide. The stationary power grid, renewable energy sector, and automotive and transportation markets will benefit. Ultracapacitors can play a game-changing role in multiple applications, including powering efficient motor drives in electric or hybrid vehicles and regenerating kinetic energy instead of wasting it as heat in conventional brakes.
There are many beneficial energy-saving targets for ultracapacitors. The real challenge is how to address these effectively and on time. We need to address clean energy generation, efficient energy storage and optimized conventional fuel efficiency if we want to get on top of our pollution and emission problems.
Accelerating renewable energy adoption
We need to develop the right solutions – fast. The industry can support the adoption of renewable energy by investing in it, and accepting it will eventually achieve ROI. The industry should generate confidence in renewable energy concepts with taxpayers and companies’ shareholders by demonstrating and providing solid proof that environmentally friendly energy sources can be as safe, reliable and resilient as any conventional power plant-based solution.
At Maxwell, we spend resources, effort and development work in partnering with U.S. and international utilities and infrastructure suppliers to set up demonstration projects for exactly this purpose: gaining proof and confidence, learning, collecting data and striving for fast commercialization of capacitive grid energy storage solutions. To achieve this, the industry needs support from government-driven laws, regulations and initiatives that secure the implementation of a growing share of renewable energy sources in infrastructure. Government-funded projects can help steer the industry in the right direction and facilitate partnerships to develop the right technologies. This will help us take bigger steps on the path to a greener infrastructure.
Explore how ultracapacitors are used for energy storage by reading about our work: "Maxwell Technologies Selected For China Guodian Corporation’s First Ultracapacitor-Based Wind Energy Storage System."
Dr. Henning M. Hauenstein About this author
Vice President of Marketing and Strategy
Dr. Henning M. Hauenstein joined Maxwell in May 2016 as vice president, strategy and marketing. Most recently, Dr. Hauenstein was vice president and general manager of Infineon Technologies, the automotive products business unit of International Rectifier, where he was responsible for high-quality and enhanced reliability needs of the automotive market and related applications. He spent over a decade with International Rectifier in a number of management level roles with increasing responsibility including vice president automotive product and program management, and vice president, product marketing automotive, industrial and appliance motion. Early in his career, Dr. Hauenstein held positions in product and technology development at Robert Bosch GmbH. He holds a doctorate in natural sciences and a diploma in physics, both with University Honors, from the University of Bayreuth, Germany.
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