by Alex Elder
California is currently in the forefront of clean energy production, not only in the United States, but in the world. Although their rising production of wind and solar energy yields many benefits for the state and its residents, it also produces some unprecedented problems. Specifically, the increase in energy generation results in complications for managing the electric grid which has to maintain the balance of energy supply and demand. The strain on the grid has resulted in a technological movement to improve energy storage systems which would help relieve some of the issues associated with increased energy production. Because energy storage systems are designed to store and then quickly release energy onto the grid, they are able to prevent a potential supply imbalance which can sometimes be caused by the sporadic influx of solar and wind energy. Battery-based storage systems in particular can store energy from the grid when electric rates are low and discharge it for use during the day. This kind of system is especially useful for banking solar energy, which can then be used at night or when power from the grid is more expensive at certain times of the day.
One new energy startup is currently at the forefront of the emerging energy storage market. Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) recently won a contract from the utility Southern California Edison Co. to build and maintain large installations of battery-based energy storage systems in commercial buildings throughout Southern California (Yamout, 2014). The startup is tasked with finding the best batteries, the best software, and the best technicians in the field to create these microgrids. AMS currently plans to install the first of its lithium-ion battery systems in groups of commercial buildings in Orange County. This type of system can run from several hundred kilowatts up to one megawatts (Wang, 2015).
Equipping individual buildings with this ultramodern battery storage technology enables the building energy load to be shifted from the electric grid to battery power during peak demand periods. This provides a substantial load reduction for electric utility companies in addition to allowing property owners access to more reliable energy and reduced costs during peak energy hours. The biggest challenge facing AMS and their microgrid project is the need to estimate the optimal size of the battery systems to efficiently meet the projected energy needs of the commercial buildings. Additionally, AMS must successfully manage the cost of using thousands of advanced technology batteries in their microgrids. Due to the vast scale of this unprecedented project, its success and effectiveness will not be fully known until after its completion. Advanced Microgrid Solutions expect their first fleet of energy storage systems to be completed by January 1, 2017 (Wang, 2015).
Wang, Ucilia (2015). An Energy Storage Startup You Need to Know About. GigaOm. https://gigaom.com/2015/02/16/this-is-an-energy-storage-startup-you-need-to-know-about/
Yamout, Manal (2014). Advanced Microgrid Solutions Wins Contract to Build Fleet of Hybrid-Electric Buildings for Southern California Edison Co. http://www.advmicrogrid.com