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Ultracapacitor Energy Storage: Improving Power Reliability and Efficiency Across the Grid

Ultracapacitor Energy Storage: Improving Power Reliability and Efficiency Across the Grid

| Dr. Kim McGrath, Director of Business Development

Ultracapacitors are power devices capable of hundreds of thousands of cycles and feature long lifetimes, making them a natural fit in grid energy storage solutions. According to Navigant Research, grid energy storage is expected to generate in excess of $68 billion in revenue from 2014 to 2024.

What applications do ultracapacitors serve in this market to overcome the largest issues the grid faces today? Here are just a few examples.

Firming Renewable Energy Generation: Power Quality and Continuity
Power generated by solar and wind is inherently intermittent, and a bulk of the intermittencies are abrupt drop-offs in power lasting seconds to minutes. In order to maintain power quality, traditional generation sources such as combustion turbine plants stand at idle to be ready to rapidly fill in the gaps. As more renewables penetrate the grid, increased idling resources are required – and there is significant cost to utilities associated with operating and constructing plants.

Ultracapacitors are a more flexible and economical technology to handle with short-term power fluctuations in renewables generation output and can be co-located with the renewable resources or called upon from another location. Further, the technology is scalable and relevant at the utility scale as well as "behind the meter” where consumers can ensure the reliability of self-generated power. Maxwell has several projects commissioning in 2015 that will demonstrate the value of firming renewables with ultracapacitors.

Optimizing Generator Fuel Economy and Providing Critical Power
In many remote and islanded areas of the world, diesel generators still represent a meaningful portion of overall power generation. With the growing demand to maximize fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, ultracapacitors are a natural fit to perform diesel generator power peak shaving or ramping – applications where the generator would be most inefficient/consume the most fuel. The additional benefit of the ultracapacitor is instantaneous backup bridging power should any power failure occur. By adding ultracapacitor energy storage alongside these generators (and ideally also adding renewable generation sources) with a power management system, the islanded or remote area can be converted to a smart microgrid where all generation and storage assets can be operated in complementary modes.

Maximizing Lifetime and Value: Ultracapacitors + Batteries = Win-Win
Battery energy storage serves an important energy capacity role for the grid, particularly in the case of storing hours of energy which can be slowly released when required. Repetitive high power cycling erodes battery performance capabilities, causing these devices to have a short life span, which results in higher long-term maintenance and replacement costs. To optimize performance, cost, and size, the system design should contain both batteries and ultracapacitors where ultracapacitors act as a buffer to the battery and fulfill short-term, high power applications.

Maxwell works closely with designers and systems integration partners to design the most relevant solution for any grid application.

Wolfgang BeezDr. Kim McGrath
Director of Business Development
About this author

Dr. Kim McGrath is director of business development for Maxwell Technologies and has spent her career in the field of energy storage applications and technology development. She received her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Southern California and an MBA from The Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine.

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