Soham Times January 2018
Energy storage solutions
The need for energy storage solutions is the natural consequence of an energy grid that has an increasing amount of renewable energy sources. Solar power plants don’t produce energy when the sun doesn’t shine and wind farms grind to a halt when the wind doesn’t blow.At the grid level, the resulting fluctuations in supply, combined with demand that can rapidly spike during hot weather, for example, can play havoc with the steady 50Hz electricity supply needed to power everything from microwaves to factory production lines.
Traditionally, fossil fuel-powered turbines are used to rapidly respond to load changes. If switched on when needed, electricity output ramps up or down so that there is enough electricity, at the right frequency, to supply demand.
Renewable energy storage systems, which include batteries and thermal storage systems, run from small household units to power plant and grid-scale technologies. What they aim to do is enable electricity to be released into the system when it is needed – so-called load shifting – rather than only when solar collectors or wind turbines are operating. Storage allows one to spread out the load and, if one can do that, then no longer big so-called base-load generators are needed. In thermal storage systems, renewable electricity or electricity purchased from the grid at off-peak rates is used to heat a material to a high temperature. 1414 Degrees uses molten silicon – an abundant and cheap element that is the main component of sand – that is heated to its melting point of 1414 degrees. The stored heat can then be used at a later time to generate electricity – using turbines – that is fed back into the grid. It can also release heat to be used in district heating systems for hot water or space heating.
According to research one of the advantages of thermal storage is the ability to operate at high temperatures, unlike batteries, whose components suffer once temperatures go above about 50 degrees.
The storage prices are dropping much faster than anyone expected, due to the growing market for consumer electronics and demand for electric vehicles (EVs). Major players in Asia, Europe, and the United States are all scaling up lithium-ion manufacturing to serve EV and other power applications.
At today’s lower prices, storage is starting to play a broader role in energy markets, moving from niche uses such as grid balancing to broader ones such as replacing conventional power generators for reliability.
Soham as a green power company was established with the idea of providing clean and sustainable energy.