This piece was originally published in the November 2018 issue of electroindustry.
John Vernacchia, Segment Manager for Renewable Energy, Eaton
As the mix of distributed energy resources on the grid increases and central coal-fired plants are retired, new strategies are needed to support grid stability. Energy storage systems provide a powerful platform to keep the power on and operate critical assets.
By 2030, Bloomberg New Energy Finance anticipates the energy storage market will double six times, and one-fourth of those deployments will be in the U.S. Recent projects are revealing ways to shorten project timelines, reduce costs, and more effectively deploy these systems.
Captions: The Eaton Experience Center, a demonstration and testing facility in Pittsburgh, helps customers understand power system alternatives. Energy storage, solar, natural gas generator, and utility power support the facility’s power requirements, even during a grid outage. Photos courtesy of Eaton
In Southern California, for example, six energy storage projects from five different developers totaling about 84.5 MW were built in late 2016 to provide critical grid support and capacity. The systems were built in response to the California Public Utilities Commission’s order for emergency energy storage procurement.
The projects in Southern California were fast-tracked following a massive methane leak at a natural gas storage facility outside Los Angeles that supplies fuel to electric utility peaker plants. Energy storage was used to balance renewable generation to avoid electricity service interruptions.
These systems were developed, manufactured, installed, and commissioned in less than six months from the date the project was awarded—an industry first for an energy storage asset of this size on a distribution system. Typically, projects have involved procurements that take a year or more and are then deployed and installed over the course of two to three years. Four of the six projects used Eaton grid connection switchgear and medium-voltage transformers.
What does it take to slash project timelines? Based on lessons in California and energy storage deployments around the world, it involves:
- Local manufacturing and expertise: Knowledge of local codes and regional requirements is critical to project success. Local manufacturing and engineering support centers can also help expedite equipment and simplify commissioning and startup.
- Intelligent control: System requirements are unique, yet the hardware and software do not need to be custom engineered. Time-tested substation control technology can provide off-the-shelf capabilities that are customizable to specific projects.
- Engineered solutions: Electrical systems can be a critical path in energy storage deployments: pre-configuring electrical system connections reduces engineering, manufacturing, and installation time.
- The virtual advantage: System modeling enables the project team to see how the system functions in a simulated environment before ground is broken on the project.
Whether balancing renewables or acting like an on-demand power plant, energy storage systems are supporting more dependable power for homes and businesses.