China now has the world’s largest battery with a storage capacity of 36MWh to combat any intermittence produced by wind and solar power at an adjoining farm.
Brain the size of a planet, battery the size of a building – both sound like figures of speech, but the second at least is solid reality. It's up and running at a combined solar power and wind farm near you.
Near you, that is, if you live in Zhangbei, in China's Hebei province. It's currently, by a distance, the biggest battery in the world. Or, strictly speaking, thousands of batteries linked up in series to provide a total power storage capacity of 36MWh, for an installed capacity of 100MW wind power and 40MW solar PV. With a smart grid connection to boot, that's enough to play a valuable role in buffering the intermittence of both renewable sources.
Whether it's good value in itself, with an estimated $500 million price tag, is not quite the point. What China is really doing here is grabbing pole position in the race to make truly coherent energy solutions. It's showing the way in combining renewable generation, power storage, and smart peak power supply and demand management – on an unprecedented scale.
Nor is it any accident that it's put together, in partnership with the State Grid Corporation, by China's solar PV panel cum electric vehicle company, BYD. The batteries themselves are basically the same lithium-ion phosphate type that it designs for cars. And the Zhangbei installation takes over the 'world's largest' title from AES Corporation's 32MW system, also using car-type batteries, unveiled at the Laurel Mountain wind farm in West Virginia in 2011.
Think of both, in fact, as just massive versions of what you might do yourself, with your own electric car in the garage wired up to your PV panels on the roof. That, of course, would be a key link in the future vision where millions of 'prosumers' trade power in and out of a vast distributed 'energy internet’ [see 'Are we on the cusp of a third industrial revolution?' ]. Whereas, here, it's being used in the service of a more centralised, grid-based 'generate, store and supply' model. What's fascinating is how the roads to both futures are advancing together.
– Roger East