May 17, 2020

Smart Grid 101

4 min
var addthis_pub="deantsouvalas";When Roger Duncan was a philosophy major in college, he stumbled upon the first Earth Day celebration and was forever ch...

When Roger Duncan was a philosophy major in college, he stumbled upon the first Earth Day celebration and was forever changed. Until that time he hadn't thought much about becoming an environmentalist. 25 years later, he's known as one of the pioneering business leaders in alternative energy.

Duncan is General Manager for Austin Energy, the nation's ninth-largest community-owned electric utility. Austin Energy serves a population of more than 900,000, and powers Texas' capital city through a diverse mix of sources. The company's portfolio includes nuclear, coal, natural gas and renewable like wind and solar.

As someone who never stops thinking about the shifting renewable energy landscape, Duncan's committed to making Austin Energy the clean-energy example of the US. "Roger's 3 a.m. List" has become code around Austin Energy for the challenging, thought-provoking questions that awake him in the wee hours of the morning.

It's his commitment to finding solutions through innovation in the alternative energy space that earned Duncan recognition in 2005 from BusinessWeek magazine as one of the leaders of the decade in the effort to reduce gases that cause global warming. Duncan joined an international and prestigious group of honorees that included former presidential candidate and Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Triangle of consumption and production
One of Duncan's areas of expertise is a globally popular phrase which can be heard all over. All across the world everyone from President Obama to The World Bank is talking about "the smart grid." However, some people still are unsure of its true meaning. Duncan is just the person to explain.

Taking a broad view of the of the future, Duncan visualizes a triangle of consumption and production, its three points being the utility; homes and buildings; and transportation sectors. Since the 1900s, Duncan explained, the utility simply produced the electricity, delivering it over transmission lines to commercial and residential customers who used it. But under the evolving model of distributed generation, smart grid technology allows energy to flow both ways.

Homes and buildings capture solar energy, while plug-in electric cars generate excess energy stored to their batteries. Both can supply power back to the central grid. As electricity consumers become part-time producers, public utilities will need an entirely new business model.

"When a building is starting to produce its own power through distributed generation, and it could be either solar cells or fuel cells or low power wind and all kinds of things," Duncan explained, "it's starting to move power now back onto the grid at certain times a day. I have about 650 buildings now in Austin and on a hot summer day, I'm the customer, and they're the producer."

Duncan explains that with a dual-directional flow between the automobile and the home, when you plug in your hybrid you're charging off the home. The electricity could be coming from the utility or there could be electricity coming from the home's solar cell. And then the vehicle becomes an auxiliary generator.

According to Duncan, Toyota already has prototype plug-in cars, Duncan says, so "if a thunderstorm moves through and your lights go out, you can plug in your car and turn it on and power your house off the car." In addition to all the power moving between the home, plug-in auto and the utility, he notes there is also information moving back and forth.

"And that's where the smart grid comes in because the smart grid is the interconnectivity not only between the utility and the customer, which is its main focus, but through all the different elements of energy that are being moved about and being monitored and controlled," explains Duncan. "The utility doesn't know your lights are out until you call them, but with the smart meters you don't have to call us. It pings us right away and says I don't have any electricity here. That speeds up our recovery time immensely."

Perfect Storm
Like many, Duncan acknowledges smart-grid technology is the wave of the not too distant future. The fact is smart-grid technology has received an undeniable boost from the global economic stimulus package and the need for increased energy efficiency.

President Obama and other world leaders are completely focused on the development of alternative clean energy sources to reduce global warming. Most companies have shifted their focus to green technology. With all of this being the case, there is a perfect storm in favor of smart-grid technology on the horizon.

For more on the power grid and the next super battery please read our story on Vanadium - The Element that Could Change the World

Visit Austin Energy for more on Roger Duncan and 9th largest community-owned electric utility in the US.

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Aug 4, 2021

Sungrow links Europe's largest energy storage plant to grid

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Europe's largest energy storage project, the 100MWh Minety plant with Sungrow's 1500V energy storage system solutions, has connected to the UK grid

Europe's largest energy storage project, the 100MW/100MWh Minety plant featuring Sungrow's 1500V energy storage system solutions, has been successfully connected to the UK grid.

The UK experienced the most debilitating blackout in nearly a decade in August 2019. The incident exposed the serious lack of frequency regulation of the national grid and demonstrated that the construction of energy storage projects that can regulate the frequency of the grid in a timely fashion should be prioritised. The Minety project, which began at the end of 2019, considerably mitigates the problem and is designed for facilitating grid stability and maximising renewable energy utilisation.

Sungrow supplied both NCM and LFP battery energy storage system solutions featuring high integration, which minimise the footprint, slash the commissioning duration and significantly reduce the system cost by 5%. The solution well meets the latest UK frequency regulation requirement called dynamic containment - requesting the plant to respond to the power instruction of the grid within 1 second, making the project one of the rare 30% of the UK's storage plants equipped with this function.

"We are proud of being part of this landmark project, offering solutions with extreme efficiency and safety while in compliance with the stringent UK grid codes," said James Wu, Vice President of Sungrow, which shipped more than 800MWh of energy storage systems in 2020.

Battery storage capacity in the UK is likely to heavily increase as move towards operating a zero-carbon energy system. At the end of 2019 the GB battery storage capacity was 0.88GWh. National Grid forecasts it could be as high as 2.30GWh in 2025.

Global energy storage updates

TEVOCS has announced the launch of a powerful series of universal portable power stations that provide reliable power for off-grid situations, travel, home backup and more. With an impressive 2080WH capacity and 2000W output, the TEVOCS power station is billed as 'the ultimate power station for modern life' and is available here.

Enlight Renewable Energy has completed the acquisition of 90.1% of the holdings in Clēnera LLC, a leading and seasoned company in the field of initiation, development, construction and operation of solar energy and energy storage projects in the United States.

Last month Canadian Solar Inc. was awarded the first utility-scale battery storage project in Colombia of 45 MW/45 MWh. The project was awarded in the public tender launched by Colombia's Ministry of Energy and Mines, via its affiliate UPME, the Mining and Energy Planning Unit. 

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