This piece was originally published in the April 2017 issue of electroindustry.
John Vernacchia, Segment Manager for Renewable Energy Solutions, Eaton
Recently expedited energy storage projects in California demonstrate an ability to dispatch stored electricity quickly.
It all started with the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas storage leak outside of Los Angeles, which emitted an estimated 109,000 metric tons of methane and took regional power plants offline. This event compelled the California Public Utilities Commission and affected utilities to quickly address potential capacity shortfalls.
By May 2016, regulators approved approximately 100 megawatts of energy storage to address peak capacity needs and provide on-demand power. In less than six months, more than 70 megawatts of storage was brought online. Beyond supporting regional capacity, these storage projects provide voltage support and store excess renewable power generated during the day.
Investments in new technologies, new services, and long-term collaborations are yielding results. To complement investment in battery technology, electrical manufacturers are delivering integrated and complete energy storage inverters and power distribution technologies to help meet project timelines.
Inverter and balance-of-system equipment can be rapidly deployed to meet a variety of grid service requirements, such as addressing outages, balancing renewables, and improving grid reliability. Higher-power energy storage inverters designed for grid-tied, utility-scale projects provide a more cost-effective solution for large-scale projects while delivering performance and reliability. This technology is helping to increase electrical resilience in large-scale applications while using a variety of battery chemistries to store and transmit power.
These technological solutions are critical, but long-term collaborations with contractors and battery suppliers are also key to moving energy storage projects from the drawing board to completion. Developers and financers look for suppliers with strong reputations and balance sheets to support energy storage projects. Suppliers who have been delivering on solutions and supporting utility-scale installations for decades are critical to winning projects expected to serve for years to come.
A single-source supplier for power conversion and the electrical balance of system equipment has an advantage. It may provide all of the electrical equipment and the engineering expertise to design a solution that helps reduce capital expenditures, as well as operational and maintenance costs, when combined with medium-voltage transformers and interconnection switchgear, metering, monitoring, control systems, and commissioning services.
Regional manufacturing centers meet local and specific project needs faster through proximity and the ability to fast-track orders. This reduces shipping time, works around larger facility commitments, and helps equipment get delivered in record time—all while providing access to expert resources who are familiar with local utility requirements.
Investments in research and development have also yielded control technologies and platforms that are able to integrate storage and renewables onto the grid to further support electrical resilience. Those efforts have resulted in control technologies that are modular and scalable to accommodate our evolving energy infrastructure.