The DOE announced today that it would provide AES Energy Storage a $17.1 million loan guarantee for a 20 megawatt energy storage–energy conditioning system built around an a A123 lithium-ion battery technology for use in the electrical grid in the region of New York state. The system will be located in Johnson City, N.Y.
AES is a large international provider of power and transmission services, with a particularly large footprint in the United States and Latin America.
A123 says its H-APUs provide a cost-effective, fast-on solution to power companies that help lessen variability in grid voltage and frequency related to mismatches in supply and demand. For example, a bank of a half-dozen semi-trailer-sized units (see above) can absorb energy from the grid during times when the frequency or voltage is too high and reinject the energy to the grid when it is too low.
The need to provide extra energy during times of peak demand is a well-known problem, but less known by the public is the additional important need to maintain a stable source of 60-Hz current. As systems interconnect with multiple generating units and transmission lines, generator- and line-based failures can cause a sudden drop in frequency, and, unfortunately, sometimes can trigger automatic load shedding. Likewise, the addition of generating capacity can cause frequency increases.
Traditionally, utility companies have responded to small frequency shifts but using generators that can automatically adjust themselves, and to larger shifts by bringing reserve gas-fired generating capacity online. The automatic adjustments occur fairly rapidly, but bringing reserve capacity is neither instantaneous or inexpensive, and require additional fossil fuel. The DOE says the battery-based system “can help reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent compared to frequency regulation provided by fossil energy suppliers.”
Part of the thinking also is that the AES–A123 systems will be needed more than ever in the future given new variabilities brought on by the growing use of wind- and solar-energy sources on a wide range of scales, and often at a long distance from the consumer.
Here is a YouTube from the DOE about this: