Power generators taking a long look at energy storage

The basic concept behind the domestic power system, with its central station generating plants and electric transmission lines, has changed little over time, as:  noted by Thomas Golden, Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) technical development manager, who said on Dec. 10 that “the system was built to transmit from Point A to Point B.”

But that could be changing with the emergence of new energy storage technology that Golden and representatives from Dresser-Rand and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems America discussed during a session of PennWell’s POWER-GEN International conference on Dec. 10.

Today you can think of few other businesses that lack an “inventory” system, Golden said. In coming years more investment will have to be spent on “smart and flexible” enhancements to the grid, Golden said.

Energy storage includes everything from batteries to old-fashioned pumped-storage hydro systems as well as emerging technology in areas like compressed air energy storage (CAES) and liquid air energy storage, the speakers noted.

Duke has tested six different batteries and has been involved in a number of different pilot programs.

“What I can report to you is that all the batteries work,” Golden said. There are, however, plenty of price and workability issues that remain to be ironed out. “We don’t yet know how to justify the costs to our ratepayers,” Golden said.

Energy storage also plays a major role in a major renewable energy project in the Western states that has garnered a great deal of attention recently.

Dresser-Rand is one of the major partners in the proposed 2,100-MW Pathfinder wind project in Wyoming. The electricity from Wyoming would be shipped to compressors in Utah and the energy would be stored Utah’s underground salt domes, said Senior Vice President responsible for Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) Jim Heid.

Ultimately, the power stored in Utah would then move over existing transmission lines to power Los Angeles, when the electricity is needed in Southern California, Heid said.

Pathfinder’s technology partner is General Electric (NYSE:GE), which is building a wind turbine specifically designed to operate within the physical characteristics of the project area. 

Through Pathfinder’s transmission partner, Duke American Transmission Company (DATC), the wind project will deliver 2,100 MW, or 70% of DATC’s Zephyr Power Transmission Line to California and the desert southwest. 

Another partner in the Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy Project is Magnum Energy, LLC

The project is being developed at the right place at the right time, Heid said. It takes advantage of the strongest wind in the country in Wyoming and impressive salt domes in Utah, he added.

The compressor facility will offer quick start up, said Dresser-Rand legal official Bob Bailie.

Song Wu, chief technology officer, at Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems America said new flexible storage technology is important for renewable power. His company is working with the Linde Group on liquid air energy storage, he said.

The technology has been around for years. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries built a 2.6 MW pilot plant built in 1997, Wu said.  

On renewables, Wu said, “I would say they have their own mind: You cannot control it.” That’s why energy storage must be flexible, Wu said.

The conference session also heard from Olivier Deneux of Paris-based EDF. Deneux discussed physics-based modeling for prediction of cogeneration production. Deneux said the short-term operating reserves (STOR) program in Europe is a good example of using combined heat and power (CHP) units as electricity reserve.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.