Gigascale Energy Storage Advances

The good news here is thatsomeone has the money to develop the regulatory framework, whatever you thinkof the value of this particular deliverable. First in is never fun.

This opens the door foradditional energy storage strategies to be deployed and that is now importantbecause of the advent as posted recently of the thin super conducting powercable.

Energy storage is now becoming practical,not least because super conducting technology will quickly eliminate most ofthe engineering losses.

We will continue to post ondevelopments here as the industry now quickly emerges.

Gigawatt-Scale Energy Storage by Rubenius - Update:

Audacious plan for massive NaS energy storage farm in Mexico is still on track.

Late last year, I managed to get thefirst U.S. interview with Claus Rubenius about his plans for afirst-of-its-kind energy storage warehouse in Mexico. Claus Rubenius is founderand inventor of Denmark's Amplex.

This is a bold plan that will require billions of dollars, hundreds ofacres of land, the alignment of regulatory stars and not a little bit of luckto succeed. But if it becomes reality, it could make fundamental changes in theway renewable energy (and conventional energy) is generated, transmitted andvalued.

Rubenius refers to the concept as an "energy warehouse" and the planis to use 1,000 megawatts of sodium sulfur (NaS) batteries funded with the helpof Japan's Export/Import bank.

Rubenius has agreed to purchase land and intends to install one gigawatt of NaSbatteries over the course of seven years. Rubenius looks to offer the energystorage capacity to energy companies and utilities in both the U.S. and Mexico

NaS batteries are bankable and they work, although they are not cheap.NGK is the world's only volume producer of the product (originally, thetechnology came from Ford of the United States). 

The firm claims, arguably, that energystorage is the "only near-term solution for the intermittent nature ofmost renewable energy sources. When intermittent power sources [e.g., windpower] reach high levels of penetration, energy storage provides the criticalbuffer to the power grid."

Other parties in the wind industry and elsewhere believe that the grid canhandle the intermittent nature of renewables with only minimal help from energystorage.

In any case, the Rubenius plan has the potential to solidifyrenewables' place in the energy mix and to create innovative new businessmodels for utilities as well as entrepreneurs.

The site chosen is Silicon Border’s Science Park -- developed formanufacturing high technology products in Mexicali, Mexico. Thelocation was chosen because of its existing infrastructure and close proximityto both the Baja California power grid and theU.S. grid, including the newSunrise PowerGrid expansion. In the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), the Amplex Group (aRUBENIUS subsidiary) has installed and commissioned the largest energy storagesystem in the world -- 350 megawatts.

Since I hadn't heard anything about the progress of the project savefor some photo ops at COP16 and since one of our valued commenters hadquestioned the reality of the endeavor, I checked in with Mr. Rubenius, thegood people at Silicon Border, and with a representative of the Mexican government.

It looks like there's been a supply chain speedbump, but otherwise thisproject is full speed ahead.

Mr. Rubenius said that he expects to install 50 megawatts in 2011although there is a bottleneck in the supply of the high temperature NaSbatteries from Japan'sNGK. Rubenius said that one of the project developers has permitting already inplace to access transmission capacity. He said, "The project is moving asplanned and we are in close communication with the Mexican government."

Rubenius also said that NGK was considering building the batteries in North America.  

I spoke with Daniel J. Hill, the Chairman & CEO of Silicon Border,the 4,500-acre science park where the batteries would be sited. He emphasizedthat there is existing grid infrastructure to support a storage facility of thesize envisioned by Rubenius.

Hill assured me that "this is a real project."  Therehave been meetings between Mexico'sPresident Calderon and President Obama about the cross-border trade of energy,especially renewable energy.  Hill also said that the CEO of NGK Japan had told President Calderon that NGKsupported the Rubenius plan for North America.

The next party weighing in was José Neif Jury Fabre of ProMexico inDubai, credited as the minister of the GeneralConsulate of Mexico in Dubai. ProMexico is thetrade and investment promotion agency of the government of Mexico. Hestated in an email:

I can state that ProMexico and the rest of the Mexican Government is supporting100% Rubenius and their Energy Warehouse Project in Mexicali, we have fullconfidence that the project will have a successful development and ourPresident Felipe Calderon does as well.

I want to refer you to a video of thePresident Calderon where he personally presents the project to thepress and media representatives in COP 16 event in Cancun last December2010 [video is in Spanish].

This is good news for the Rubenius project -- having politicians,funding, and technology supply lined up for the application. But other legshave to be in place to make this work -- regulatory andutility stars have to be aligned as well. And as we've covered extensively,the languagefor energy storage and the regulatoryframework for large-scale energy storage are still works in progress.

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