Today there may be international interest in renewable energy sources, but energy storage and transportation had been major dilemmas for millennia. The advent of the industrial revolution ushered in the use of fossil fuels, beginning with coal. When the 1880s happened, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse et al, literally and figuratively, electrified the world. Suddenly, the energy required to run the most powerful machines could be had by simply connecting to a wire from the street. Electricity could be generated on a massive scale and transported virtually anywhere safely, reliably, and inexpensively. What an amazing time! However, as we now know, fossil fuels have some drawbacks. What to do?
Resurgence of Renewables
The 1970s saw a renewal of interest in renewable energy. This blogger has lived “off-the-grid” utilizing photovoltaic panels and wind turbines. Small batteries stored the energy generated and then powered a DC to AC inverter when I wanted to watch TV, read a book, do laundry, etc. It worked well as my home was a self-contained unit and I didn’t need to send the power to anyone else. Today, renewable energy sources provide an increasing share of U.S. electricity. Renewable energy sources, e.g. solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric, were the source of about 17% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2019. Currently, ten states have committed to achieving 100% renewable energy goals. But once again, we are confronted with the problem of storage. “I want to watch TV, but the sun’s not shining.” What to do?
Large Scale Storage and the Need for Inverters
Renewable energy sources are notoriously fickle. The wind doesn’t always blow, or it blows too much. The sun doesn’t always shine. Hydroelectric dams cannot be turned on or off as needed. Large scale energy storage overcomes this by allowing power to be consumed at a different time than it was generated through a process known as “time shift”. These DC/DC converters have declined in cost 74% since 2013 and are projected to continue a steady 8 percent per year decline through the mid-2020s. “The largest price drop in utility-scale lithium-ion storage systems occurred between 2014 and 2015, plummeting 29 percent. The following year saw a 26 percent price decline, and last year, 12 percent. As hardware costs fall, the utility-scale system price is expected to continue its decline, dropping 36 percent by 2022″.
DC to AC inverters are essential in transforming DC power from renewables into AC that can be “shipped” long distances to households and storage facilities. On a mass utility-scale, clean energy relies on these industrial grade inverters to transform and store sustainably sourced power so it is ready to meet demand at any moment. With over 29 years of experience in the game, PCTI’s products are perfectly suited to address renewable energy storage options on both a commercial and mass utility-scale.
Solar DC to AC inverters make it possible to use solar and other renewable energies to power our lives. This can be done through grid-tied or off-grid inverters. Grid-tied inverters serve as a sort of bank for entities using solar power. It allows them to harness solar power through photovoltaic panels, invert it from DC to AC, send any unused energy to the grid in their “account.” When needed later, they withdraw AC power by deducting it from their “balance”.
PCTI custom-manufactures inverters for small and large scale grids for a variety of applications including power stations, microgrids, renewables, transportation, back up power, and more. Our range of inverters includes DC to AC inverters for wind turbines, solar power inverters, and microgrids.
Overcoming Grid Failure
Because large scale renewables are grid-tied, they are vulnerable to outages due to grid failure. For example, the Northeast blackout of 2003. On August 14, 2003, a software bug in a local utility provider caused a power outage in seven eastern and mid-western states, as well as most of Ontario, Canada. A total of 55 million people were initially affected and power was not fully restored to the region for two days . Any number of events can cause a grid failure or a “black out.” What to do?
One solution is off-grid DC to AC inverters. Like this author’s aforementioned home, these are stand-alone systems requiring batteries for storage of on-site renewables-generated DC power and conversion to AC power for later use. Unfortunately, though, not every home or business can be “energy independent” and grid-failure proof. The need for large grids will be with us for the foreseeable future.
Besides mitigating the variability of renewables, one role of utility-scale battery storage systems is to provide a consistent, reliable, and efficient energy supply in the event of grid failure. Microgrids are an option that use these storage systems to strengthen emergency preparedness plans and make a power source more resilient to grid failure. These microgrids are smaller, more independently controlled, and located closer to their power-generating structures. This allows greater control of one’s power usage as well as offering protection from main-grid failure. Whether it’s used for backup power during an outage or as an additional revenue stream, microgrids are at the forefront of the future of utilities.
Power Storage for Renewable Energy Sources
Hybrid power systems are now commonplace as the US transitions to renewables. However, total reliance on renewable energy might not be as far off as it seems. The United States Department of Energy has even created the “Energy Storage Grand Challenge” aimed at making renewable energy more easily stored and shared to meet demand. According to the department, the goal of this program is to “create and sustain global leadership in energy storage utilization and exports, with a secure domestic manufacturing supply chain that is independent of foreign sources of critical materials, by 2030”.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, nearly 18% of all electricity produced in the United States comes from renewable energy sources. A collective push from communities, companies, and entire states, coupled with campaigns like the Energy Storage Grand Challenge, is likely to drive this number even higher and with it, the demand for DC to AC inverters and power storage solutions.
- Renewable energy is on the rise
- Renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro require either off-grid or grid-tied AC to DC inverters.
- In order to fully harness the power of renewable energy sources, there needs to be more reliable, utility-scale power storage options.
- As the demand for renewable energy becomes more cost-effective and easily adaptable, smaller “microgrids” and off-grid inverters will become a highly requested option, allowing for more control and on-demand utilization.
PCTI will help you choose an inverter or find the power storage solution that’s best for your project. Check out our power inverter brochure, contact us at any time for further questions, or request a quote from the comfort of your home or office. If you found this blog interesting, please feel free to share it!