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ENERGY STORAGE The energy storage challenge Briefly put: Exploring news ways of storing energy is bringing scientific and technological advancement to utilities across the world. Storage by way of gas to power, or advanced battery technologies will make it easier to save power from renewable energy generation for when it is needed the most and to manage power quality more effectively. One of the biggest challenges with electricity is that you use it when you have it, and if you don’t – you lose it. Yet, while this is a fundamental principle of physics, it is not one that is particularly useful with the new generation of renewable energy technologies. As we cannot arrange for the sun and wind to provide the needed energy at precisely the time we need it, it lies to science to find a way to store the energy that is produced, when it produced and save it for later usage. Energy storage is big business – a recent report states that the demand for energy storage will grow to over $10 billion globally. This market, which started off with a value of $200 million in 2012 1 , will see 720MW of distributed energy storage added to the US market alone by 2020. According to the ‘Advanced Energy Storage Systems Market by Technology, By Applications and Geography – Global Trends & Forecast to 2018’ report, both developed and developing countries will soon start making energy storage a priority within energy policy. The power to gas presentation suggested that by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen, the hydrogen could potentially by injected into natural gas pipeline networks and stored. Apparently between three and 10% of the pipeline capacity could be filled with hydrogen – which, given the Canadian pipeline capacity, could be as much as 40% of the annual electricity use in the United States. According to Rob Harvey, director of energy storage at Hydrogenics, “The potential for power-to-gas in North America just for the direct injection could be anywhere from 1 000 to 3 000MW.” German utility E.ON is currently working on a 2MW project alongside Hydrogenics to test the power to gas application. In August 2013, the plant began commercial operations, using wind power and electrolysis equipment to transform water into hydrogen, which is then injected into the existing regional natural gas transmission system. The hydrogen, as part of the natural gas mix, can be used in a variety of applications including space heating, industrial processes, mobility, and power generation. “This project makes E.ON one of the first companies to demonstrate that surplus energy can be stored in the gas pipeline system in order to help balance supply against demand,” said Dr. Ingo Luge, CEO of E.ON Deutschland. “This method of energy storage is considered a key technology for the transformation of Germany’s energy system. It will reduce the need to take wind turbines offline when the local grid is congested and will therefore enable us to harness more wind power.” In Hawaii the renewable energy boom is raising issues for utilities around grid stability, especially when the generation in any given neighbourhood exceeds the network threshold, resulting in voltage and current fluctuation and challenges maintaining power quality. The Hawaiian Electric Co (HECo) and the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) are working on three battery projects which could help overcome this issue. At the HECO Campbell Industrial Park substation, a 1MW lithium-ion battery will be used to aid storage of the more than 3MW of installed power on the distribution circuit for this area. This project is designed to “gather “Grid scale projects are expected to increase in the future for better peak demand management (Load Balancing), for provision of power quality (Frequency Regulation) and optimise generation by effectively integrating renewable power. Control of the carbon footprint by reduction of fossil fuel usage has been and will continue to dominate the energy scenario driving the increase of electric as well as hybrid electric vehicles, globally. The grids as well as the transportation needs are thus likely to drive the energy storage markets to a new high with continued momentum,” the report forecasts. Technological innovation is the key to increasing the capacity and affordability of energy storage solutions. At the recent ‘Alberta Innovates’ symposium various types of energy storage technologies were presented to the audience. These included projects on power to gas, improving battery storage and thermal matrix energy storage. 42 Figure 1: A prototype flow battery in Aziz’s lab at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. (Photo by Eliza Grinnell, SEAS Communications.) METERING INTERNATIONAL ISSUE - 1 | 2014