Amazing how slowly the technology development work on the grid is moving, isn’t it? In California, we are faced with a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirement by 2020. The industry still has not adopted a solid answer to the imposition these renewable resources, such as solar and wind, will place on the stability of the supply to the grid and the reaction of the grid to it, even though one does currently exist. It is well known that intermittency from renewables, caused by everyday occurrences such as constantly fluctuating wind velocity and clouds passing over solar arrays, will pose serious challenges in grid operation and will drive the demand for stabilizing influences.
Ultracapacitors, or supercapacitors as they’re sometimes called, provide one stabilizing influence. Solar “firming” (using stored energy to smooth solar system output) is a prime application ready for ultracapacitor energy storage stabilization. The high variability and unpredictable nature of the solar outputs make a solar farm a perfect environment for ultracapacitor energy storage. “Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” said Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff in a recent interview.
While it may not take over everything, considering the source of this quote, it is likely rooted in reality and speaking to the continued growth and proliferation of solar technology. With solar comes the need for solar firming. The value proposition — including power performance, reliability, lifetime, and operating temperature range — of ultracapacitors make for a system which is perfectly suited for the demanding grid environment.
It is unfortunate that appropriate decision making is often slowed by special interests, lack of information, politics, and more. If the true story was told, and clear minds were evaluating that story, ultracapacitors would be firming renewables’ output into the grid in a big way today. The answer to the question is already here, but the people asking the questions are distracted, which slows down progress. There are a few progressive individuals out there who get it. Those champions are ahead of the rest in addressing the relatively manageable problem of instability and renewables.
What will it take to overcome grid operational challenges?