Utility Grade Electric Storage- Brian Perusse, AES Energy
September 23, 2011 @ 12:00 am EDT
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Stored Energy System for Long Island
Our speaker this morning was Brian Prusse and the discussion was about the use of batteries to help support the grid. The age-old problem with power plants is the difficulty with matching load to production. Firing up a major power plant takes time. On the other hand, the moment you activate a switch you expect the power to be there. Loads in the system are constantly changing and these plants need to over produce or risk a brownout. By having reliable storage that can be almost instantaneously introduced, the power company can produce power closer to the projected need and be more efficient.
Nuclear was introduced to the utility systems about 40 years ago and those plants were designed to produce a base load. Nuclear plants are not easily regulated and work best when producing a steady flow. That makes nuclear suitable for the base amount of power with the peaks being met by so-called peakers that can be fired up relatively quickly. But even these peakers take a little time to meet the perceived load. Batteries can meet the load almost instantly. Utility scale storage has application for the nuclear industry even if not a single new nuclear plant is ever built.
Another strategy for load leveling is a very sophisticated and robust transmission system. Being able to move power to where it is needed employs automated systems that we have. That strategy works better in the open spaces of the country than in places like Long Island where no one wants to see the power transmission facility built, and even that strategy is not a perfect solution.
Mr. Perusse gave us a little history on the AES Company. AES has a presence in many places in the world as generating company, and began solving the problem of variable needs for their own installations. They began by solving small scale problems and as technology advances allowed they were able to tackle power systems that would have been cost prohibitive in the past.
The future may include a large scale use of batteries that are installed in cars. During the evening the cars will absorb cheaply created power and reintroduce that power at a time in the day that would be advantages to the utility company. However we are not there yet, and it may be some time before enough electric cars are in place to accomplish this kind of load leveling. In the meantime battery technology has gotten less costly and safer.
AES created a plant in Chile and that system has worked very well. There is a 32-megawatt storage plant that is being built in South Carolina and there is an 8-megawatt storage facility in Johnson City near Binghamton. The proposed plant for Long Island is much larger than the previously built storage systems at 400 Megawatts. That sounds big and it is big, but compared to the size of the Long island system it is small. We can generate 5800 megawatts if needed and about 2000 of those megawatts are produced by older, dirtier and less efficient plants. This 400 MW can be introduced almost instantly and that feature by itself creates a scenario where we actually can produce less power so the capacity will be able to serve the region.