Thanks to Michael Faraday’s work in the early 19th century, electricity has been generated at centralized facilities beginning in 1882, initially using coal and water power. In the past 135 years, other non-renewable fuels—oil, natural gas and nuclear—have joined coal and water power in producing most of the world’s electricity. Renewable energy sources, however, are attracting the attention and multi-billion dollar investments among some of the world’s largest energy providers. Their focus on renewables, coupled with advances in technology and growing competition among makers of specialized electrical generating equipment, are delivering electricity produced with renewable sources to the world at an ever-accelerating pace.
Consider these trends…
80 MWh Batteries Power 2500 Homes
Southern California Edison (SCE) deployed the world’s largest lithium-ion storage facility at its Mira Loma substation in Ontario, California on December 30, 2016. Tesla provided the massive collection of batteries using its commercial-grade Tesla Powerpack 2 lithium-ion battery units. Another SCE substation in Tehachapi, California had already been providing 32 MWh of battery power. It alone uses more than 600,000 Li-ion batteries built into more than 600 racks. While the cost of these giant installations have not been disclosed, estimates range between $40 and $45 million for a 20 MW capacity installation.
These substations store electricity produced by solar (photovoltaic) and wind farms. They also serve as a “buffer” that supplies power during peak demand periods. According to the Energy Storage Association, the energy storage market in the U.S. alone spiked 284 percent in 2016 vs. 2015. In the meantime, Tesla’s “giga-factory” near Sparks, Nevada—soon to be the largest building in the world based on its footprint—expects to make 35GWh of commercial-grade battery units annually.
Read more about SCE’s sustainable energy developments and Tesla’s contribution.
Duke Energy Shares Battery Storage Successes
Duke Energy, working with more than two dozen partners, shared the results of its experiments at its Mount Holly, North Carolina plant. The company wanted to know how smoothly a battery storage system would seamlessly transfer power when the main power source fails. The company set up a “microgrid” operating in two modes—either connected to the grid, or operating stand-alone as an inverter that delivered power from a bank of batteries to various loads. They found power can be transferred from one mode of operation to the other without any load tripping or loss of inverters, thus giving other energy companies insights on how they might solve the problem of achieving seamless mode transfer. Learn more.
Oil Rigs Morph into Wind Turbines
Big oil companies—Royal Dutch Shell, StatOil ASA, Eni SpA among them—are abandoning North Sea drilling where many of the older oil fields have been largely exhausted. Instead, they’re looking to the future where renewable energy will play an ever-larger role the global energy market. With decades of experience in deep water drilling and building all the infrastructure that requires, refocusing on offshore wind turbines gives those oil companies a leg up. They’re already investing multi-billions of dollars in such ventures. In fact, offshore wind turbines, whether anchored to the sea bottom or free-floating, will account for some $99 billion of investment between 2000 and 2017, according to Bloomberg.