By Duwayne Escobedo
Think of rechargeable batteries like the ones that power your cell phones, laptops or electric cars.
Gulf Power is testing a huge rechargeable battery at its McCrary Training and Storm Center on Pine Forest Road in Pensacola. This one can power your plant.
How huge is it? Picture 11,636 D-size batteries, the kind that your flashlight runs on. Combined they weigh 3,970 pounds or almost two tons.
That equals the weight of one Gulf Power Tesla Powerpack and the Pensacola energy company has 10 of those type of batteries. The lithium-ion industrial energy storage system can produce 250 kilowatt/1 megawatt-hour. That’s enough energy for 400 homes for two hours.
For the next two years beginning today, Southern Company and its Gulf Power affiliate along with Electric Power Research Institute and Tesla scientists and engineers plan to research this emerging technology. The three objectives Southern Company laid out are: 1) Demonstrate and validate performance of a commercial/industrial energy storage system; 2) Improve integration of distribution-level energy storage technology; and 3) Refine industry standards and best practices.
The energy storage system ideally would help large industrial and commercial customers store energy and then use the battery energy at peak hours to avoid buying it from Gulf Power.
It’s thought that the batteries may save energy customers money and benefit the power company by easing the burden caused by having to ramp up the production of electricity to meet its customers’ demands.
The Southern Company has managed about $2.3 billion in R&D investments, a fact that Kimberly Greene said she is proud to share. The company decided in the 1960s that it needed to be a part of researching advancements that may improve the delivery and reliability of its system. Energy company officials said they want to try out the Tesla Powerpacks first before they put their company’s name behind it.
“We cannot just stand by and watch it happen,” said Greene, Southern Company executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We recognized we needed to be part of the solutions. We need to shape change. Innovation is in our DNA.”
Gulf Power officials are prevented by its contracts from revealing the cost of the energy storage system and what the power company would charge customers to purchase and install one.
The Tesla system is designed to be expandable and portable to an industrial or commercial site in the future. It was even suggested by a Gulf Power official that a large subdivision might want to invest in energy storage.
In addition, researchers expect to learn more about siting, installation and operational requirements, plus discover the advantages the system might provide customers through “peak shaving, demand management, ancillary services, energy arbitrage and backup power.”
“Energy storage is critical,” said Stan Connally, Gulf Power chairman, president and CEO. “We think there is great promise here.”