Energy Secretary Rick Perry was in Kodiak, Alaska, recently to learn more about how the island manages its renewable energy microgrid, according to KTUU News in Anchorage. The visit was arranged by Senator Lisa Murkoski.
Kodiak Island gets 98% of its electricity from renewables. It has diesel generators for backup but uses them only rarely. In fact, the generators are started once a month just to make sure they are in good working order. Chevrolet does something similar with its Volt plug-in hybrid. The range extender engine starts itself up once a month if it has not been used to just make sure all the oily bits stay properly lubricated.
Darron Scott, CEO of the Kodiak Electric Association, says Perry toured some of Kodiak’s facilities to learn more about KEA’a fully renewable grid. Perry was most interested in the energy storage components KEA uses, which include both battery and flywheel energy storage devices. He also was interested in cyber security for the grid and stopped to see the island’s electric cargo crane in operation.
Kodiak Island is the second largest island in the US and has a population of 15,000 scattered among 7 communities. It gets its electricity from wind turbines and hydroelectric facilities, both of which typically fluctuate in their output. To balance the system, it relies on a microgrid engineered and installed by ABB, the giant Swedish/Swiss energy and technology company.
The microgrid consists of two 1 megawatt PowerStore flywheel energy storage units and two 1.5 megawatt battery storage units. In order to manage the microgrid effectively, ABB also has provided an MGC600 decentralized microgrid control system, which consists of control modules distributed across the microgrid. The company says the modules communicate with each other on a peer-to-peer basis, providing a high level of flexibility and redundancy.
“Remote locations like islands may be rich in renewable energy sources, but the intermittent nature makes their integration into the power grid a challenge,” said Claudio Facchin, head of ABB’s Power Systems business. “ABB’s innovative microgrid solution as in this case includes grid stabilization technology that enables high penetration of renewable power generation, and distributed control systems that provide intelligent power management and efficient hybrid power plant operation.”
The call went out to ABB when the KEA decided to replace its diesel-powered ship crane with an electric crane. It knew the electric device would create large fluctuations in the power supplied by the microgrid. “Expanding the crane operations at the port posed a challenge because it meant that we would likely have to rely more heavily on our fossil fuel-based generators,” said Darron Scott. “Not only will the ABB solution allow us to shave the peaks off the crane loads, it will also reduce the stresses placed on our battery systems and extend their lifespans.”
The advantage of the PowerStore flywheel units is that they can switch from a full power charge to a full power discharge in less than 5 milliseconds. Besides providing voltage and frequency support for the new crane, the PowerStore units will extend the life of the two 1.5 MW battery systems and help to manage the intermittencies from the island’s 9 MW wind farm. Battery performance tends to degrade after hundreds or thousands of charge/discharge events. Flywheels do not.
Rick Perry has been friendly to wind power, which is becoming increasingly popular in his hone state of Texas. Hopefully, he liked what he saw and will use the knowledge gained on this trip to promote microgrid technology in other areas of the US. Puerto Rico, for instance, could benefit greatly from such microgrid systems.
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