As the first utility-scale plant of its sort in North America, a renewable energy facility in Oregon that combines solar power, wind power, and huge batteries to store the energy generated there formally launched on Wednesday.
The project, which at its peak capacity can produce enough electricity to power a small city, tackles a significant issue that the utility industry is currently confronting as the United States moves away from fossil fuels and increasingly relies on solar and wind farms for power. Although fossil fuels like coal or natural gas must be used to make up the difference when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, wind and solar energy are pure sources of energy.
Massive lithium batteries at the Oregon facility can store up to 120 megawatt-hours of energy, which can then be delivered to the electric grid when needed from the 300-megawatt wind farms and 50-megawatt solar farm. When operating at full capacity, the facility can generate more than half the electricity that was produced by Oregon’s final coal plant, which was destroyed earlier this month.
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On-site battery storage is nothing new, but in recent years, the U.S. has seen a huge increase in interest in solar-plus-battery projects in particular thanks to generous tax breaks and incentives and the declining cost of batteries. However, the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility in Lexington, Oregon is the first of its kind in the United States to integrate the integrated wind, solar, and battery storage at such a large scale in one location, giving it even more flexibility to generate continuous output without relying on fossil fuels to fill in the gaps.
The goal of the project is “getting ever-closer to having something with a very stable output profile that we traditionally think of as being what is capable with a fuel-based generation power plant, “According to Jason Burwen, vice president of energy storage at the American Clean Power Association, a trade association for the clean power sector.
“If the solar panel is working properly and a cloud cover suddenly appears, the battery can take over and ensure that the production continues. The battery can ensure that the transition between the sun setting and the wind picking up speed is very seamless so that it doesn’t appear strange to the grid operator.”
In accordance with one of the most aggressive climate laws in the country, Oregon’s climate law, which was passed last year, requires Portland General Electric, a public utility, to reduce carbon emissions by 100% by 2040 and is located in a remote area three hours east of Portland. NextEra Energy Resources built the plant.
The Wheatridge project is “essential to that decarbonization agenda,” according to Kristen Sheeran, director of sustainability strategy and resource planning at PGE. Nearly a quarter million PGE customers only receive renewable energy.
According to the agreement, PGE owns one-third of the facility’s wind output and acquires the entire facility’s power for its portfolio of renewable energy. Two-thirds of the wind output and all of the solar output and storage are owned by NextEra, the company that built the complex and runs it.
According to David Lawlor, NextEra’s director of business development for the Pacific Northwest, “the mere fact that many other clients are looking at these types of facilities gives you an indication of what we think could be achievable.” Customers demand firmer generations without a doubt, starting with the back battery storage.
Americans may anticipate similar projects across the nation as the U.S. transitions to more variable power sources like wind and solar. Large-scale energy storage is essential in this transition. Models from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory suggest that the United States’ storage capacity may increase fivefold by 2050, but experts assert that even this won’t be sufficient to halt highly destructive climate change.
The sustainable energy sector is experimenting with other alternatives in addition to batteries. Others are experimenting with pumping water underground and holding it there before releasing it to power turbines. Pumped storage provides power by sending massive volumes of water downwards through turbines.
However, as the cost of batteries has decreased and the technology has advanced, there has been a significant increase in interest in batteries for the storage of clean energy, according to experts, which has increased interest in hybrid plants.
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According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is run by the University of California, generating capacity from hybrid plants increased by 133% between 2020 and 2021, and by the end of last year, nearly 8,000 megawatts of wind or solar generation were connected to storage.
Because of tax incentives, solar power with battery storage projects predominate, but there are also plans for offshore wind plus battery, hydroelectric plus battery, and at least nine plants that will combine solar, wind, and storage, like the one in Oregon. According to Berkeley Lab, there are projects in Washington, California, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, and Oregon that will be launched between 2023 and 2025.
However, a lot of scientists and pilots are focusing on lithium-ion battery substitutes because a longer storage time would be more practical because their inherent chemistry restricts them to about four hours.
“There is no magic cure. There isn’t a model or prototype that will completely fill that need, but wind and solar energy will undoubtedly be included “PGE’s Sheeran stated.
“The West might use this model to help with its decarbonization while the entire nation works toward its extremely ambitious climate reduction targets.
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