Energy Storage / UPS Systems
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Energy storage technologies do not generate electricity but can deliver stored electricity to the electric grid or an end-user. They are used to improve power quality by correcting voltage sags, flicker, and surges, or correct for frequency imbalances. Storage devices are also used as uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). by supplying electricity during short utility outages. Because these energy devices are often located at or near the point of use, they are included in the distributed energy resources category.
The following technologies are discussed in this section, with more details below:
Photo Source: UP Networks
Utilities typically use batteries to provide an uninterruptible supply of electricity to power substation switchgear and to start backup power systems. However, there is an interest to go beyond these applications by performing load leveling and peak shaving with battery systems that can store and dispatch power over a period of many hours. Batteries also increase power quality and reliability for residential, commercial, and industrial customers by providing backup and ride-through during power outages.
The standard battery used in energy storage applications is the lead-acid battery. A lead-acid battery reaction is reversible, allowing the battery to be reused. There are also some advanced sodium/sulfur, zinc/bromine, and lithium/air batteries that are nearing commercial readiness and offer promise for future utility application.
Flow batteries differ from conventional rechargeable batteries in one significant way: the power and energy ratings of a flow battery are independent of each other. This is made possible by the separation of the electrolyte and the battery stack (or fuel cell stack). A flow battery, on the other hand, stores and releases energy by means of a reversible electrochemical reaction between two electrolyte solutions.
There are four leading flow battery technologies: Polysulfide Bromide (PSB), Vanadium Redox (VRB), Zinc Bromine (ZnBr), and Hydrogen Bromine (H-Br) batteries.
A flywheel is an electromechanical device that couples a motor generator with a rotating mass to store energy for short durations. Conventional flywheels are "charged" and "discharged" via an integral motor/generator. The motor/generator draws power provided by the grid to spin the rotor of the flywheel. During a power outage, voltage sag, or other disturbance the motor/generator provides power. The kinetic energy stored in the rotor is transformed to DC electric energy by the generator, and the energy is delivered at a constant frequency and voltage through an inverter and a control system.
Traditional flywheel rotors are usually constructed of steel and are limited to a spin rate of a few thousand revolutions per minute (RPM). Advanced flywheels constructed from carbon fiber materials and magnetic bearings can spin in vacuum at speeds up to 40,000 to 60,000 RPM. The flywheel provides power during period between the loss of utility supplied power and either the return of utility power or the start of a sufficient back-up power system (i.e., diesel generator). Flywheels provide 1-30 seconds of ride-through time, and back-up generators are typically online within 5-20 seconds.
Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES)
Superconducting magnetic energy storage systems store energy in the field of a large magnetic coil with direct current flowing. It can be converted back to AC electric current as needed. Low temperature SMES cooled by liquid helium is commercially available. High temperature SMES cooled by liquid nitrogen is still in the development stage and may become a viable commercial energy storage source in the future.
A magnetic field is created by circulating a DC current in a closed coil of superconducting wire. The path of the coil circulating current can be opened with a solid state switch which is modulated on and off. Due to the high inductance of the coil, when the switch is off (open), the magnetic coil behaves as a current source and will force current into the capacitor which will charge to some voltage level. Proper modulation of the solid-state switch can hold the voltage across the capacitor within the proper operating range of the inverter. An inverter converts the DC voltage into AC power. SMES systems are large and generally used for short durations, such as utility switching events.
Supercapacitors (also known as ultracapacitors) are DC energy sources and must be interfaced to the electric grid with a static power conditioner, providing 60-Hz output. A supercapacitor provides power during short duration interruptions and voltage sags. By combining a supercapacitor with a battery-based uninterruptible power supply system, the life of the batteries can be extended. The batteries provide power only during the longer interruptions, reducing the cycling duty on the battery. Small supercapacitors are commercially available to extend battery life in electronic equipment, but large supercapacitors are still in development, but may soon become a viable component of the energy storage field.
Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)
Compressed air energy storage uses pressurized air as the energy storage medium. An electric motor-driven compressor is used to pressurize the storage reservoir using off-peak energy and air is released from the reservoir through a turbine during on-peak hours to produce energy. The turbine is essentially a modified turbine that can also be fired with natural gas or distillate fuel.
Ideal locations for large compressed air energy storage reservoirs are aquifers, conventional mines in hard rock, and hydraulically mined salt caverns. Air can be stored in pressurized tanks for small systems.