SOLON Corporation, one of the largest providers of turnkey solar power plants in the U.S., announced that it will partner with Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy (AzRISE) at the University of Arizona to design and construct an Energy Storage Management Research and Testing (SMRT) site. The purpose of the site is to research the reliability and applicability of integrating different energy storage technologies with photovoltaics onto the grid, and ultimately to provide utilities greater control of their renewable portfolios.
The SMRT site will be attached to a 1.6 megawatt (MW) solar plant recently built by SOLON, owned by TEP, and located at the University of Arizona„s Science and Technology Park. The project is an open design allowing for many different technologies to be added or replaced as advancements continue in the coming years. SOLON will design and install the control system and oversee the project.
In August 2011, SOLON, in partnership with AzRISE, will introduce the first phase of the project with a Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) technology designed and constructed by faculty and students at the University of Arizona. CAES can be an ideal solution for storing large amounts of energy, giving utilities the option of shifting solar energy output by hours, days, or even seasonally. This means utility owners will have the option of using the energy produced by their solar plants when they need it most.
To better address shorter-term variability caused by events such as cloud coverage, a faster response is required of the storage medium. In keeping with this, the second phase of the project, due to be installed in the fall, will be a lithium-ion solution, followed by the third and fourth phases in the spring of 2012. All of these storage systems will be managed with SOLON‟s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system.
The output of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind can vary throughout the day. Today, grid operators can already handle a certain amount of variability on their systems; however, as utility-scale solar projects continue to increase in size, the impact of their inherent variability on the grid does as well. Operators will need new and better tools such as energy storage at their disposal to facilitate voltage support, transmission congestion relief, equipment replacement deferral, and energy arbitrage.
“By continuously innovating, SOLON is committed to excelling as a photovoltaic system solution provider for utilities,” said Dan Alcombright, President and CEO of SOLON Corporation. “Storage for renewable energy is essential for utilities as they increase clean energy generation into their grids. By testing different types of storage methods and technologies under various environmental conditions, our garnered intelligence will enable us to provide utilities with highly accurate guidance on the right storage solution for them, as well as provide completely integrated PV systems with storage.“
“As we increase our reliance on intermittent solar and wind resources, grid-tied storage systems are going to become a necessary piece of maintaining reliable service for customers,“ said David Hutchens, Executive Vice President of TEP and its parent company, UniSource Energy Corporation (NYSE: UNS). “This project will give us an opportunity to work with trusted partners to evaluate the performance of various storage technologies.”
“Arizona is leading the way as a hub for solar energy innovation and energy storage technologies form a key component,” said Joe Simmons, AzRISE Director at the University of Arizona. “As such, we are pleased to be able to collaborate with a local partner in SOLON, and with our local utility, TEP, to develop cutting-edge storage solutions.”