An announcement was made this week when VRB, a Canadian supplier of vanadium redox battery energy storage systems revealed the sale of a large system to an Irish wind farm. This sale is significant because the developlment of large energy storage systems is necessary before sun and wind power can become a truly integral part of our power generation system. Because of the intermittency of these sources, they, by themselves, are not dispacthable to meet the demands of the grid. Some means of storing the energy so that it can be used (dispatched) as needed is required. Llke a huge battery energy storage systems serve this need. Numerous types of systems are in use at a small scale, but very few at a large enough scale to be useful to a utility. The following is from the press release:
VRB Power Systems Inc. (TSX-V: VRB) announced that they have entered into a sale agreement with Tapbury Management Limited of Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Ireland ("Tapbury") for the sale of a 1.5 MW x 8 hour (12 MWH) VRB-ESS(TM). Tapbury oversees the management of Sorne Hill Windfarm, a recently commissioned 32MW windfarm which is located in Buncrana, Inishowen, Co. Donegal, Ireland ("Sorne"). This 12MWH VRB-ESS will be coupled to phase II of the Sorne project which is an additional 6.9 MW of wind power for which turbines have been ordered and are due to be installed in the Fall of 2007. This will make Sorne, at 38 MW, one of the largest wind farms in Ireland. The total contract value for VRB Power from this sale is approximately US$6.3 million.
Energy storage is identified by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) as one of its research priorities within the terms of its Renewable Energy R&D programme. Ireland has relatively low electrical power demand and limited interconnection with external networks. Energy storage is regarded by SEI as an important technology which may enable Ireland to reach its full renewable energy potential.
"With approximately 3,000MW of wind energy in the application process in Ireland, we believe that there could be a need for in excess of 700MW of storage in Ireland to enable the successful roll out of this abundant resource," stated John Ward, Director and shareholder in Tapbury and Sorne Wind Energy Limited ("Sorne"). With the VRB system, we will be enabled to significantly expand and develop the substantial wind energy resources which the country has. In terms of our own portfolio of wind projects, we would have some 70-80 MW of wind projects which would be immediately enabled by this technology."
"This is a very important sale for the Company," stated Tim Hennessy, Chairman and CEO of VRB Power. "It is the largest sale we have made to date and it provides validation of the potential for our storage systems to be coupled to wind farms in the large, growing wind markets in Ireland, Europe and North America as well as a number of other countries worldwide. The VRB technology is the most advanced wind coupled storage system in the world with a very large system installed in Japan and a smaller one installed in Australia. The repeated deep cycling in wind applications makes it virtually impossible for conventional batteries or even advanced batteries to compete with the VRB - ESS"
The cost of electricity generation in Ireland has risen to amongst the highest in the world and this has led to a large focus on reducing dependence on natural gas imports, becoming more self-sufficient in terms of electricity generation and in maximizing its own natural resources. Ireland is also committed to the Kyoto Protocol and to reducing Greenhouse gases. At the end of 2005 renewables, largely wind, contributed 6.8% to electricity supply and the Irish Government has set the target of 15% renewable energy generated electricity by 2010.
By mid 2006, the amount of installed and contracted renewable generation (mainly wind) in Ireland totalled 1,560 MW. There is a further 2,992 MW of renewable generation (again mainly wind) in the connection application process which would be a total of 4,552 MW of renewable generation on the system. This presents the clear prospect of Ireland having the largest share of renewable generation to total generation of any grid system in the world.
As the amount of wind penetration continues to increase rapidly, issues of intermittency and curtailment are becoming more and more common and storage is becoming a necessary component to ensure that this abundant resource can be maximized without causing wide-spread frequency deviation and disruption to the Irish grid. In addition, storage has the potential to improve the capacity of electricity being generated from wind farms and to ensure that all wind energy is captured whether generated at peak or off peak times.
High electricity prices in Ireland may make the economics of this installation more attractive, but the fact is that VRB will have a large-scale demonstration for all the world to see. As electricity rates rise in the rest of the world and as VRB improves the economics of its system, sales should develop in other areas.
Thanks to Tyler at Clean Break for the tip.