The push to build supersized batteries capable of storing unused energy for later use on the grid is taking a big step forward: private companies are interested in putting such technology into commercial production.
There are times when there is too much power on the Northwest electricity grid, like in the spring, when snowmelt provides a lot of hydropower and strong winds generate extra wind energy.
For years researchers have wanted to find a way to store that extra energy. Then it could be put back on the grid when the wind isn’t blowing and wind turbines aren’t making electricity.
One way to do that: batteries. Up until recently, a large-scale battery had been lab-tested in the Northwest. Now, three companies are licensing the technology to put it to use.
Peter Christensen is with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., where the battery was first developed.
“It’s more than just an interesting science experiment. This is doing something in the real world, which is very exciting to us,” Christensen says.
One of the companies developing this technology is based in Mukilteo, Wash., north of Seattle.
Russ Weed is with UniEnergy Technologies. He says the company eventually wants to produce 100 megawatts of battery systems per year.
“That sounds like a lot. It is. On the other hand, the global market appears to have many gigawatts of need for storage,” Weed says.
Weed says the company plans to start making the batteries commercially available this summer.
Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network.