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Renewable Power Storage, Management Modules in Development

Andreas Gutsch (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)

Andreas Gutsch (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)

Systems that integrate renewable power sources with battery storage and management modules are being developed for pilot testing at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. The first of the modular systems, with a 50 kilowatt capacity, will be constructed on the Karlsruhe campus by the end of the year.

The modular energy systems are being developed as part of the Competence E project, which combines the efforts of 26 institutes working in energy storage technologies at Karlsruhe. The project will feature several pilot installations of solar cells, small wind power plants, lithium-ion batteries, and power-management electronics. The pilot systems are expected to demonstrate how peak loads in the electrical power grid can be balanced and what renewable power supplies in an isolated grid network can look like in the future.

Competence E project coordinator Andreas Gutsch (pictured right) says batteries are a key element in the design of a stationary grid system using renewable sources like wind or solar, which can store solar or wind power until it is retrieved by the grid. “When applied correctly,” says Gutsch, “batteries can also balance higher load and production peaks and, hence, make sense from an economic point of view.” Gutsch and colleagues have reviewed potential batteries for grid storage, and says “Now we know which lithium-ion cells are suited best for stationary storage systems.”

The Competence E project has designed as well a gear-free wind generator suited for weak wind regions that can complement electricity production by the solar system in the winter months, when the amount of day light is reduced. In addition to the battery, the stationary storage module will have a power electronics unit for charging and discharging the battery within a two-hour period that can provide interim storage for peak load balancing.

The power management and control module will feed solar energy and wind electricity into the batteries during times of weak demand, while during times of peak loads, solar and wind energy will be fed directly into the grid. Discharging the battery during periods of lower demand, such as at night, will make it possible to recharge the batteries during day light hours.

The first modules are expected to produce power comparable to the amounts needed by a medium-sized factory. The experience from the early installations is expected to be used to develop smaller systems for individual homes, as well as larger industrial applications.

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