In 1997, around the time Commonwealth Edison’s electrical grid was managed by Dan Foley every morning we have to start a two coal-fired generating plants to keep pace with the use of electricity because every morning, nearly 3 million Chicagoans make use of lights, hair dryers and televisions.
He would say “Mornings used to scare the hell out of us”.
Foley found answers to his scary morning Seventeen years later: batteries.
Foley, founder of an energy development firm Gildepath based in Chicago have been secretly three battery storage facilities in northern Illinois worth $20million. The facility can be tapped to quickly solve the problem of fluctuation as the grid demands. This means that the grid operators won’t always have to crank the plants for sudden increase in load.
“Batteries can react faster than traditional generation,” said Foley. “They can react as fast as milliseconds.”
The facilities are the largest project of its kind. It is a combined 60 megawatts capacity, which has the look of shipping containers arranged in rows. The facilities are to be set up in Joliet, McHenry and West Chicago.
Two of the facilities were recently sold to an unknown renewable energy company by Glidepath .ComEd expects that this spring the three projects will hook into its electrical grid.
One advantage of such battery project is that they help to regulate fluctuation in power from wind or solar generators, depending if the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. Battery storage facilities can only store power for when it’s needed but can’t absorb or regulate power burst.
Foley speaks to the Joliet planning commission about his battery project. “If there’s bumps in the electricity, the batteries smoothens the bumps and add stability to the system. “It is just like a car’s shock absorber” he says.
According to Green Tech Media Research, the energy storage projects across the United States are about 270 with a joint capacity of 212 megawatts.
But now the industry is expected to surge, in part owing to the result of the ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that increased the price for “fast”-responding energy sources like batteries.
Navigant Research predicts in their report that global energy storage is expected to increase dramatically in years to come, from 538 megawatts this year to 20.8 gigawatts. A gigawatt can give electricity to about 1 million homes.
Each of Glidepath’s sites comprises of nine containers, each with 80,000 lithium-based batteries, on a land mass of about 100 by 200 feet. In case of overheating, they are usually equipped with chilling unit and fire suppression.
We still call the Traditional power providers to always be ready to take care of unpredictable circumstance of the renewable energy ,blocking the number of traditional generation that can be displaced by those natural resources that are available.
ComEd’s grid is prone to blackouts if the power providers are not on standby to keep the electric current steady. Say’s the vice president of engineering and smart grid.
“it is designed to protect,” Svachula said. “if the generation available does not match the load, the frequency begins to drop and the equipment gets destroyed, or at worst, the grid can break off into islands, which instantly leads to blackouts.
CEO of Energy Foundry Jason Blumberg, based in Chicago-based ventures fund paid in by Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois shareholders, is one of Glidepath investor. Glidepath, operates out of the Energy Foundry’s offices, and its technology is now being tested on ComEd’s grid.