When Tesla previously unveiled its Gigafactory to produce battery storage devices, a lot of folks held their breath. Now that the company’s product have been put to use in the United Kingdom, it may be time to exhale. Indeed, Camborne Energy Storage is using Tesla’s “Powerpack” to prevent the lights from flickering out for the National Grid there.
It’s a 500 kilowatt per hour capacity system that is located right next to a solar farm.
“The development of Tesla’s first European grid-tied system is an exciting step forward for Camborne and Tesla in terms of our respective storage strategies. This project is another success for storage development in the UK and being co-located with a renewable generation site, should offer significant benefits to all stakeholders,” said Dan Taylor, managing director for Camborne, in a statement.
Tesla’s Chief Executive Elon Musk will be overseeing the process to mass produce batteries for the electric car. But the same technology can used for grid-scale storage that is used for frequency regulation or renewable smoothing – the most prevalent use today. This is a separate use from residential storage is typically used as a back-up generation, which is the batteries harness electrons and release them later when the weather does not permit. That is not a cost-effective use, at present.
In the end, Tesla’s involvement is about making the concept of energy storage both accessible and affordable. The aim is to increase scale.
To that end, there have been more megawatts stored in the last year around the world than over the last 30 years, says DNV GL. California’s mandate to install 1,325 megawatts of energy storage by 2020 will continue to be a catalyst, it adds. And that will come on top of the 200 megawatts that are now online in Hawaii.
Virginia-based AES, an independent power producer, for example, owns such storage assets and offers them through contracts. Altogether, it has at least 500 megawatts of energy storage capacity under near-term development.
It has developed a 12 megawatt project in Chile that went into service in 2009. There, the battery storage system AES uses optimizes traditional fossil fuel generators, which must maintain a certain reserve. Batteries help meet those requirements as well as back up unforeseen failures on the grid.
Meanwhile, AES is using a 32-megawatt storage project as part of a wind farm in West Virginia. That battery, in effect, gives short-term jolts to the system. In other words, it does not harness energy all night and release it during the day; rather, it holds the power for short durations and then lets it spurt out to smooth power production during those times when the wind changes speed.
“The challenge with the grid is that the load is not uniform,” Gary Rackliffe, vice president of smart grids North America for ABB Inc., previously told this reporter. “Energy storage balances those demands and addresses the issue of variability.”
The electricity network then becomes more reliable and more efficient.