Energy storage: Northwest's largest battery coming to Federal Way?

The Laurel Mountain energy storage project in West Virginia is a fully-integrated portion of the Laurel Mountain Wind Farm, develop with AES Wind. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AES ENERGY STORAGE
The Laurel Mountain energy storage project in West Virginia is a fully-integrated portion of the Laurel Mountain Wind Farm, develop with AES Wind.

Here's a bit of business buzz: An energy storage company has proposed building one of the world's largest batteries in King County. If the project gets the green light, it may be built in Federal Way.

Every two years, Puget Sound Energy performs an exhaustive analysis of its customers' demand for power. Included in that analysis is a request for proposals. Virginia-based AES Energy Storage is among companies to submit a project this year.

In a nutshell, AES proposes building a 200-megawatt "battery" grid designed to supplement Puget Sound Energy during peak power demand. Similar facilities resemble a lot full of white rectangular trailers.

AES is looking at four possible locations, including a 2-acre site located south of Seattle, according to Praveen Kathpal, a vice president with AES. In a January visit to the region to seek support for the AES project, Kathpal would not reveal the proposed location when meeting with this newspaper. The Federal Way Mirror was the only media visit scheduled on his itinerary.

AES is pitching a 400-megawatt energy storage system in Long Island, N.Y. Kathpal said the Long Island project, if realized, would be considered the world's largest battery.

By the end of March, Puget Sound Energy is expected to select proposals for the first round of cuts, said spokesman Roger Thompson. Following a second round of cuts later this year, PSE will reach out to finalists for contract bids.

Thompson said a 200-megawatt energy storage system like the one proposed by AES could provide enough power for 100,000 homes. The main concern, however, is how many hours that power could be sustained.

Puget Sound Energy must constantly balance supply and demand for power. Such a system, in theory, could assist PSE in balancing the power supply or perhaps storing energy from facilities like windfarms, which often cranks out power overnight when demand is minimal.

"You really can't store electricity. You have to generate it when the consumption is there," Thompson said. "That's the intriguing potential behind storage. You create a giant battery so you don't necessarily have to be ramping your generation up and down on a moment's notice."

In Washington, District 40 State Rep. John Morris (D-Mount Vernon) has been a prominent advocate for energy storage. In a YouTube video, Morris specifically mentions battery storage systems. He calls energy storage a "has-to-have technology" that will help stabilize energy culled from renewable resources like wind and water. Morris also sponsored a bill in the House that will help develop alternative energy projects.

Learn more

Click here to view the Dec. 20, 2011, issue of Electric Power Daily for more information on AES project proposals.

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