Creating energy from renewable sources is just one part of the challenge. Storing the energy so it can used how and when it’s needed – that’s every bit as important. Which is what led the California Energy Commission to recently award $845,894 to two projects dedicated to energy storage advancement.
The first project, headed by EnerVault of Sunnyvale, received $476,428, supplementing a $4.76 million grant that came courtesy the 2009 stimulus, and $4.29 million of privately raised capital. That all adds up to $9.53 million, which will pay to install and evaluate the company’s novel flow battery technology for commercial viability. This test will be done with a 150-kilowatt photovoltaic power system in the state’s Central Valley.
The hope is that EnerVault can succeed in offering safe, economical and adequate storage options for utility-scale renewable energy projects, whose intermittent production makes them sometimes difficult to integrate with the grid. Current battery technology tends to be too expensive to meet utility-scale needs, and overheating can be a concern, as well. EnerVault uses an iron-chromium redox system, in which, according to NASA, “electricity is generated when pumps move the electrolytes into separate sections of a reaction chamber. Electrodes collect that charge, and the electrolytes can then be recharged from an outside power source.”
The second project is from Fremont-based Amber Kinetics. The company received $369,466 for the research, development and demonstration of a utility-scale flywheel energy storage system, which they hope will boost the use of such technology due to its high efficiency and low cost. In a flywheel system, energy is stored as rotational energy as a rotor, or flywheel, spins at a very high rate. The faster the wheel spins, the more energy is stored, and as energy is taken out, the wheel’s speed decreases. Amer Kinetics also received $3.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, and comes in with $5.94 million of its own capital toward the total $10 million project cost.