An outcome of the impending global energy crisis has been the call for renewable and lasting energy sources, which will eventually replace fossil fuels. With its history of power quality problems, the world’s existing power and electrical supply systems will grow increasingly unreliable as renewable energy systems are introduced.
According to the 2013 International Energy Outlook, renewable generation is the world’s fastest-growing source of electric power, rising by an average of 2.8 percent per year. An important part of the solution to addressing this unreliable system, and equally critical to sustaining the growth in use of renewable energy sources, is to enhance battery-powered energy solutions.
While harvesting energy resources at a steady rate will generally result in the most efficient system, there are further efficiencies that can be implemented through providing focused and intelligent energy delivery mechanisms.
Most people consider the battery the be-all, end-all of energy storage. Batteries are efficient and they can provide stored energy reliably. Still, batteries have crippling limitations when it comes to working as part of a renewable energy source, as well as in several other applications, including manufacturing equipment, memory backup, and transportation.
Batteries struggle under moments of high peak power and do a poor job of delivering the frequent, short power boosts many of these applications require. They also perform poorly in low temperatures; batteries run best on a modest spectrum of -0 to 40 degrees Celsius. In extreme conditions, the operating lives of batteries are limited and they must be frequently swapped out in potentially dangerous environments.
Many of a battery’s shortfalls can be addressed by pairing it with an ultracapacitor. Ultracapacitors are a high power energy solution that can withstand millions of cycles and deliver enormous bursts of energy, while remaining very efficient.
Ultracapacitors reduce overall system size and have a far longer lifespan than batteries do. While the replacement period for batteries is between two and four years, the expected lifespan for ultracapacitors is more than 10 years. This makes ultracapacitors a more cost-effective option, as well. Pairing an ultracapacitor with a battery will also extend the life of the battery by 2x to 4x in most cases.
Ultracapacitors can also help withstand the short term and long term negative effects to an increase in demand on a system. They have no detrimental effects on the environment and are more than 95 percent recyclable. They only require some protection from moisture, which is already taken care of when used in a module format, have inexpensive balancing circuitry, and can be discharged to 0V for storage or maintenance.
For these reasons, use of an ultracapacitor in combination with a battery is an excellent way to increase the overall power density of the source and decrease the strain on the battery. The technology will generate far better ROI than any other energy storage medium, allowing each chemistry to do what it’s designed to do.
Take the wind turbine market for example, which has been constrained by the challenge of creating consistent, reliable stores of energy from an unpredictable natural resource.
The industry demands an energy storage system that responds quickly to its needs, regardless of current meteorological conditions. Ultracapacitors provide the answer, as they perform well under a wide range of temperature conditions.
An ultracapacitor is typically placed at schematic points in the pitch control system. The switched-mode power supply serves as the charging circuit for the energy storage component, which subsequently powers the motor controllers. Ultracapacitors increase the limited choices of energy storage of a typical pitch control system and maximize efficiency for harvesting energy.
Another detractor for wind turbines has been the potentially costly and dangerous maintenance requirements. The adoption of the ultracapacitor by the industry has provided longer lifecycles and greater temperature tolerance, thus driving more widespread wind turbine growth. For these reasons, 85 percent of new wind turbines with electric pitch control use ultracapacitors rather than batteries.
Energy storage systems will play an increasingly important role as the world moves forward into a clean energy future and as the electrical infrastructure evolves to utilize renewable sources of energy.
To make this a reality, it will be necessary to develop robust energy storage collection, which will likely include improved batteries and high-energy density ultracapacitors. This will go a long way to relieving stress on the grid’s infrastructure and to using resources more efficiently.