Clean Power Texas gets largest wind energy storage facility in North America

Published on January 24th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


North America’s Largest Wind Energy Storage Facility Fires Up In Texas

January 24th, 2013 by  

Where else to site the nation’s biggest wind energy storage facility but in Texas, the state known for its extra bigness? Duke Energy has fired up the new 36 megawatt energy storage and management facility, which is linked to the Notrees Windpower wind farm in the western part of the state. Aside from showcasing some nifty new energy management bells and whistles, the new storage facility blows a Texas-sized raspberry in the direction of renewable energy nay-sayers, whose complaints about the “unreliable” nature of wind power are now, well, blowing in the wind.

Texas gets largest wind energy storage facility in North America

We Built This Gigantic Wind Energy Storage System!

The new facility was commissioned by North Carolina-based Duke, through its Duke Energy Renewables division. It was the recipient of one of the early publicly funded energy projects approved under the Obama Administration’s Recovery Act in 2009, with Duke matching a $22 million grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

For its investment, the U.S. taxpaying public gets to use the new system as a knowledge base leading to widespread adoption throughout the national grid, firmly cementing clean, renewable, low cost wind power into the mainstream of the U.S. energy landscape.

Other partners in the effort include the Electric Power Research Institute, which will analyze the system’s performance and assess its potential for broader application, and the Energy Reliability Council of Texas, which is working with Duke Energy to optimize the system’s ability to increase or decrease the frequency of electricity traveling through the grid.

Small Batteries for Big Energy Storage

The storage system itself was engineered by the Texas-based company  Xtreme Power, which counts the Bloomberg 2012 New Energy Pioneer Award and an R&D 100 Award among its recognitions.

Xtreme’s Dynamic Power Resource™ energy storage system is already in use elsewhere in the U.S., one example being a 15 megawatt system for the Kahuku Wind project in Hawaii which previously held the title of North America’s largest when it went online in 2011.

The system consists of a scalable assembly of thousands of Xtreme Power’s PowerCell battery, which is a a 12 volt, 1 kWh, dry cell battery based on a proprietary formula of alloys including copper, lead and tellurium.

The system stores energy like a conventional battery but it also has the quick “stop-and-go” capabilities of a capacitor, and that enables it to function as a high performance energy management system as well as a storage system.

Among other advantages, Xtreme Power notes that the materials in the PowerCell are not classified as hazardous and are easily recycled, for which purpose the company has established a recovery system.

Many Paths to Renewable Energy Storage

Battery-based storage systems are just one avenue of exploration for renewable energy storage. Among the other up-and-coming options is the flywheel, updated from its Neolithic roots with high-tech materials and space-age lubricants.

Pumped hydro energy storage is another promising resource, in which excess wind power is used to pump water uphill, then gravity takes over when more energy is needed.

Along similar lines, researchers at the University of Nottingham are looking into inflating giant undersea bags with compressed air, by using excess power from offshore wind farms. When more energy is needed, water pressure from the sea will force air out of the bags to run turbines.

Meanwhile, researchers at the North Carolina State University are working on semiconductor “nanoflowers” with an enormous surface area relative to their size, which could lead to the development of cheaper, more efficient lithium-ion batteries.

Speaking of the Biggest…

Duke’s recent merger with Progress Energy has made it the largest utility company in the U.S., so this looks to be just the beginning of its impact on future energy generation, storage and distribution nationwide.

The company has been making headlines lately for a variety of reasons, not all of them necessarily positive, but we’ve also taken notice of the company’s leadership position on renewable energy.

Aside from wind power, Duke has been in the vanguard of new distributed solar power systems, and last fall former CEO Jim Rogers went out on a limb to make a clean energy case for the re-election of President Obama.

Duke is also involved in an electric vehicle research partnership with the Department of Energy, Ford and Siemens, and it has formed clean tech partnerships with energy companies in China.

Update: This article has been edited to reflect the correct office at DOE funding the project, which is the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Image (cropped): Raspberry by Muffet

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Ahmet

    April 14, 2014
    Younicos Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Younicos AG, a Berlin-based company, acquired Xtreme Power’s assets with a winning bid in a chapter 11 auction supervised by the US District Bankruptcy Court of West Texas.

  • Pingback: San Diego Loves Green – Who’s Afraid Of The Big, Bad Production Tax Credit For Wind Power?()

  • Hampy

    Pumped heat energy storage:

    • Bob_Wallace

      They’ve got an interesting idea. But they had that idea a long time ago and I’ve yet to see any data. They did get some significant funding about six months ago so perhaps they’re building the heat pump they need to test their system.

  • scotto and SmartPowerGeneration

    As I stated in my earlier posting the system can produce 36 MW for 15 minutes – therefore the energy storage capacity is .25*36 = 9 MWh – this is the largest storage capacity of a battery system that I know of anywhere although I believe that the BESS system in Alaska is still recognized by the Guiness Book of Records as the largest capacity system as it was able to deliver 46 MW for 5 minutes during a test in 2003.

    • Ok, thanks!

    • Solmaz

      a 6MW-10MWh Li-ion distribution connected system is being built by UK Power Networks in the UK. this is the largest battery storage in Europe.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Adding 15 minutes of storage means that the wind farm can sell power in 15 minute blocks ahead of time to the grid and then, if the wind suddenly drops, won’t have to go on the market and purchase much more expensive power from another source in order to fulfill their contract.

    The price might be high, but the price of all emerging technologies is generally high. Someone has to buy a few units at the higher price and then, as things mature, the price drops.

    There are very few spots on earth where pumped storage can work (you need a large reservoir above the dam which is easy and a large reservoir below the dam which is almost impossible).

    We’ve got about 80,000 existing dams in the US. We use about 2,500 for electricity production.

    Most dams have a safety zone below them where a small reservoir could be excavated. The lower res needs hold only the max number of days that wind and solar would not be performing.

    Additionally we can build closed loop pump-up in which one reservoir is built at a higher altitude than the other. A steep rise in terrain. Connect them with a bored “tunnel”

    It would take enough water to fill the system one time and then annual evaporation replacement.

    • I agree that pumped storage is the only utility-scale storage solution available and in use today – no argument on that point. But your suggestion that many dams could have a small reservoir built below them does not hold water. The scale is very important and the reservoirs have to be of similar size and preferably separated by a large elevation difference. The largest existing one is in Bath County Virginia and includes two huge dams and large reservoirs. The water level in those reservoirs varies by 60 feet and 105 feet respectively every 24 hours.

      I think the fact that no pumped storage facilities are under construction today in the U.S. (although there are a number being built elsewhere, 5 in China) is indicative of the fact that there are no suitable sites left in the U.S. There is no doubt that with large amounts of wind energy coming on stream the storage is needed.

      • Bob_Wallace

        No, Davis. The lower reservoir needs only hold as much water as need to “store” the longest peak supply to valley supply. The upper reservoir could hold billions of gallons of water but the lower need hold only a small portion of that total. The size of the lower will determine how many hours power could be generated.

        And higher has advantages, but you can offset head by pumping more volume.

        We are converting existing dams into pump-up in the US. And plans are underway to build a pump-up in southern California – a closed loop with a tremendous amount of head.

        There are thousands of suitable sites in the US. Give this a read…

        Look at the percentage of existing dams on federal land that are suitable for power production. Add in the dams they eliminated because they don’t have adequate year-round inflow for production. (They have the head and are close enough to transmission for pump-up.) Then use that percentage on the 80,000 – 2,500 total existing dams.

        Then there is closed loop. Check this proposed one…

        • Good references and useful information – thanks. I support increased use of pumped storage – would like to see more projects go forward,

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’ve been watching storage as best I can since my information is all what is publicly available on the web. (And I might not even know the good places to look.)

            Anyway, a year or two back the large utility companies in California (PG&E, SMUD, etc.) announced that they were each going to pursue some large storage projects to meet upcoming storage requirements. Two were talking about new pump-up, one a new CAES facility and possibly other stuff.

            And then the MIT liquid battery was announced. I’ve heard nothing more about new large scale storage in CA.

            It could be that there is another reason I’m not hearing about new pump-up in CA. They may have found a workaround. Regs might have changed. But I do wonder if utilities don’t see the Ambri battery as a very likely, very affordable storage solution.

            I hope I’m not putting too much wish-power in that, but I think it worth considering.

            We could be many years away from needing more storage. We’ve replaced a lot of coal generation with natural gas which is dispatchable. At the same time we are not increasing our electricity usage. Total electricity generation has been bouncing up and down a bit year to year since 2005 or so.

            The solar and wind added aren’t additional generation so much as substitute generation. The new NG fills in around them.

            More EVs/PHEVs on line will lower storage needs because they are capable of sucking up generation peaks. If there is a place to sell the peaks then more generation will come on line.

            Battery and containerized CAES have huge advantages over pump-up. If they compete on price. Both can be manufactured in factories, shipped to some cheap real estate, and plugged in. No years of getting permitting issues settled.

            They can even be picked up and moved if need elsewhere or replacement containers can be moved into place very quickly in case one unit needs repairs. For extensive repairs they can be trucked to a repair site.

          • Bob Wallace and David Swan, I want to introduce you both to Ned Ford of the Sierra Club in Ohio. He is well versed on this subject and I think all three of you would do well to share what you know. If you would like to be introduced, please email me at sunpwrd at gmail dot com. Paul Scott

  • Chincoteague57

    Maybe you should check out the details behind the fire at ”
    Xtreme’s Dynamic Power Resource™ energy storage system is already in use elsewhere in the U.S., one example being a 15 megawatt system for the Kahuku Wind project in Hawaii which previously held the title of North America’s largest when it went online in 2011.” Last year, before you get all hot and bothered over this “new” battery installation. Hopefully your title, ”
    North America’s Largest Wind Energy Storage Facility Fires Up In Texas” does not mean another “fire” at similar installation and someone designed an effective fire suppression system this time around.

  • scotto

    The 36 MW number cited in this article tells us little of use. MW is a unit of power; it tells us how much energy this system can transfer in a second, but nothing about how much energy can be stored.

    • Yes Scotto – That is a very interesting point. ,,, how much energy can be stored ?

  • What’s the storage capacity of the system? The 36 MW mentioned here denotes the capability to store momentary power, but MWh is needed to know how long the storage can store or discharge at the full 36 MW input/output.

  • I guess it is impossible to leave a comment – third try with no joy.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You got caught in the spam filter. I’m not sure how it works. I know that some people earn a spammer reputation and get trapped. It also seems to trap people who have not posted on the site before and include a link. More than one link will definitely set a flag.

      • I’m having a lot of trouble with comments this week. And i’m a moderator! Disqus is used on some of the biggest sites in the world, but if it doesn’t get things working smoothly, we may have to switch. 😛

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’m seeing lots of sites moving to Disqus. I would imagine they’re experiencing some growing pains.

          Their system, I like it better than anything I’ve seen other sites use. Which is either a homemade system or LiveFyre (sp?).

          • Yeah, it’s a good system. And it’s nearly impossible for us to get all of our comments imported into it, so I would seriously consider before dropping it. I’ll definitely give it a few weeks, but am having a lot of errors lately. Probably just growing pains. 😀

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