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The Next Solar Frontier: Energy Storage

03 Mar 2011 10:34 AM | Anonymous

As states across the U.S. create optimistic energy goals, they are looking for ways to better utilize solar energy.  To date, 24 states have adopted Renewable Energy Standard (RPS) policies.  Illinois hopes to have 6% of its energy this year coming from renewable sources, and 25% of its energy by 2025.  If you think this sounds like a lofty goal, Hawaii hopes to have 70% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.  Why the difference? Unlike mainland states, Hawaii does not have access to many fuel sources, such as natural gas or rivers for hydropower.  Instead, their main energy source is petroleum.  Combining Hawaii’s soaring electricity costs (highest in the nation) with the want to limit climate change effects, their 70% goal does not seem so unreasonable. 

A major barrier in reaching these goals is energy storage.  Intermittent power takes time to build up, and can lessen on days without sun or wind.  This causes utilities to increase production sporadically, and does not allow for back-up energy during power outages.  Finding a way to harness and store energy efficiently would solve these dilemmas. The Dept. of Energy’s Energy Storage Council estimates that the widespread use of high-density energy storage would save the U.S. $175 billion over the next 15 years. 

Recently, HNU Energy and International Battery teamed up to test renewable energy storage in Hawaii.  The energy storage system created consisted of “four battery modules,  32 160AH lithum iron phosphate (LFP) and a batter management system (BMS) integrated into a standard Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA) 19-inch portable rack mount chassis and enclosure.  The large format lithium ion batteries were chosen because of their high energy density, robust thermal and cycling performance as well as easy system expandability”.  Ramp up/ down studies, among others, tested the batteries’ ability to store energy and hold a charge.  As well, a graphical user interface (GUI) allows HNU Energy to monitor and control the batteries.  Read more about the project here. The success of Hawaii’s energy storage brings optimism to all solar energy advocates.  As we transition into a renewable energy economy, more of these projects will help us reach our RPS policy goals.

One of ISEA’s legislative goals in 2011 is to create an Alternative Compliance Payment or other penalty for non-compliance with the Renewable Portfolio Standards.  Only through enforcement of RPS policy, can we reach our goal of 6% renewable energy this year! Hawaii’s energy storage project proves that we have the technology and capability to implement renewable energy practices into our everyday lives.

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