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Clean Power AES Battery Storage System

Published on December 6th, 2011 | by Silvio Marcacci


Massive Battery System Captures The Wind

December 6th, 2011 by  

AES Battery Storage System

These containers hold 1.3 million batteries

One of the biggest challenges facing wind energy is intermittency. Wind often blows strongest when power demand is lowest, and weakest when electricity is needed the most. Because today’s power grid needs electricity to be consumed the moment it’s generated, that means wind turbines send energy to the grid half as often as an average coal plant.

But what if wind farms could store the power that isn’t needed right away and sell it later when demand is high? energyNOW! correspondent Patty Kim recently visited a monumental new energy storage system recently built alongside a wind farm in the heart of coal country. The full video is available below:

Wind energy has come a long way in the United States. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that employs 75,000 people in 42 states and generates about 2 percent of the nation’s electricity. And, the Department of Energy says that number could grow to 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030.

That potential is far from reality, though. And, in order to reach 20 percent, one in five new turbines will have to be built offshore where the wind is faster and more consistent, and offshore wind is yet to be stalled in this country.

Intermittency is a commonly cited problem for renewable energy options, but intermittency is only a problem because the energy industry hasn’t come up with an efficient way to store electricity on a large scale – until now, perhaps.

A massive new battery storage system has sprung up in the heart of coal country, and it could change wind energy forever. AES Corporation, a global power project developer, has built a wind farm of more than 60 turbines spread across twelve miles of West Virginia’s Laurel Mountains. The farm generates enough power for 20,000 homes, and feeds power into the PJM Interconnection regional grid.

But the really impressive aspect of this wind farm is a series of white shipping containers, nondescriptly nestled into the hills, containing 1.3 million lithium ion batteries. Each battery is about the size of a typical C or D cell, and together they provide frequency regulation to the grid. Grid operators at PJM send signals to the battery system every four seconds, telling it to either send the electricity generated by the wind farm onto the grid, or store it for later use when the wind isn’t blowing. “It’s a level of control over power that we haven’t seen,” said Praveen Kathpal, Vice President of Market and Regulatory Affairs for AES Energy Storage.

The storage system technology is impressive, but, for now, its impact is relatively small. The West Virginia project can only hold enough electricity at any one time to power about 5,000 homes for 15 minutes.

“Projects like these are the beginning of a long wave of energy storage projects to come,” said Kathpal. AES says they’re taking the next step in West Texas, where they want to build a second battery project, roughly three times larger than the West Virginia system.

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

  • Anonymous

    You seem to know something about wind. You must know that it’s dumb to talk about nameplate capacity the way you do. And you must know that wind farms are beginning to be major players in our grid supply. Wind moved past the 3% of all electricity point this year.

    You also should know that wind is being integrated into grids all around the world in larger and larger amounts. It’s reducing the price of electricity and causing fossil fuel plants to be curtailed. You should know that grids are constantly adjusting to match demand and supply, wind is simply one more input and more predictable than some.

    You also must know that all forms of electricity generation receive either direct or indirect subsidies from taxpayers. Coal and nuclear feed heavily at the trough. If we did not provide nuclear with low interest rate loans and free liability coverage none would ever be built (if any ever are). If we required coal to pay all its hidden costs we would never build another coal plant and we would see the remaining ones quickly close.

    Now, Laurel Mountain fragmenting 12 miles of biological and ecological ridgelines does not pass the smell test. The footprint of wind turbines is quite small and both critters and plants are free to move past them. Unlike, say, a blow off mountain top turned into a flooded pit.

    The bird deaths are quite unfortunate, but I can assure you that house cats got far more birds that day than were confused by the lights left on in the fog.

    It is estimated that each year, 57 million birds die in collisions with vehicles; 1.25 million in
    collisions with tall structures (towers, stacks, buildings); and more than 97.5 million in collisions
    with plate glass.

    And a study at a single Florida coal-fired power plant with four smokestacks recorded an estimated 3,000 deaths in a single evening during a fall migration.

    In one widely-publicized study reported in 1989, for example, a neutral committee of three biologists found that a single nuclear power plant, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California, killed some 21 tons of fish each year, including “several billion” fish larvae.


  • Laurel Mountain Watcher

    While it’s cool to quote the press releases that AES Laurel Mountain wind facility generates enough power for 20,000 homes, perhaps you might want to add a qualifier or two to that statement like, in a perfect world AES Laurel Mountain could generate… or if the wind blew strongly 24/7…
    The truth is that the location of the AES Laurel Mountain facility is in a region of the US that even the NREL ranks as mediocre at best. If you were actually here, as I am, you would know that Laurel Mountain is more of a foothill with the much taller mountains located a few miles away to its east. Not the greatest location. Truth is that since it’s opening in July there have been very few days of maximum wind. Days like today, where the turbines have been inactive for the past six hours with no wind on the horizon, are not the least bit unusual. So your statement should read, “ On a perfect day the turbines could power 20,000 houses, but the rest of the time you’ll be thankful that we don’t have to depend on them.”

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