Cutting-Edge Energy Storage In Spotlight

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.

utility-scale energy storage, California grants

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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.

Laura Caseley is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and a resident of New York State’s Hudson Valley. She writes for several publications and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found painting in her makeshift studio or enjoying the scenery of her hometown.

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