Energy storage with batteries has been gaining some ground lately as an aid in dealing with the variable nature of power produced by renewable energy technologies. Wind farms in Hawaii and West Virginia have incorporated battery banks to manage fluctuations in power production. More recently, China unveiled the world’s largest utility-scale energy storage facility, integrating both wind and solar energy.
But can batteries be an answer for larger-scale renewable energy storage and distribution, the way solar thermal is being developed? A Valparaiso, Ind.-based company thinks so. It’s on a bit of a renegade crusade to develop the first utility-scale solar power plant in the U.S. that is capable of providing dispatchable power on demand.
Moraine Power’s proposed 20-megawatt (MW) facility (“GridConPV1,”) combines photovoltaics (PV), energy storage and smart grid technologies to provide on-demand power from solar, wind and hydroelectric resources. According to the plan, GridConPV1 will consist of 232,000 square meters of solar panels, and a battery bank with a capacity of 120 megawatt-hours. The PV array will be sized to generate enough power during sunny hours to deliver power for 12 hours per day—covering demand at night, early in the morning, and late in the evening.
Here’s how it works: During the day, the PV array produces power, which is converted from direct current (DC) to 3-phase alternating current (AC) in the plant’s inverter system. From there, it is gated into the plant-wide distribution system, and routed by a computerized real-time control system (RTCS). The RTCS receives commands from the utility control center (NIPSCO), or the independent system operator (MISO), which manages inter-state transmission.