If you want to use solar power at night or wind power on calm days, you need batteries that can store energy after it’s produced. But why bother with two pieces of equipment when you could have one? Engineers are now beginning to build batteries directly into wind and solar systems. Combined renewable generation-storage systems are just starting to be deployed in the wind sector. From a report last month in Quartz:
[W]hat if every wind turbine became a node in an energy internet, communicating with the grid and each other to adjust electricity production while storing and releasing electricity as needed? That’s the idea behind General Electric’snew “brilliant” turbine, the first three of which the company said … will be installed at a Texas wind farm operated by Invenergy. The 2.5-MW windmill is something of a technological leap in an industry where turbines have gotten bigger and bigger but not necessarily smarter. The turbine’s software captures tens of thousands of data points each second on wind and grid conditions and then adjusts production, storing electricity in an attached 50 kilowatt-hour sodium nickel chloride battery. If, say, a wind farm is generating too much electricity to [be] absorbed by the grid—not an uncommon occurrence in gusty west Texas—it can store the electricity in the battery. When the wind dies down, the electricity can be released from the battery and put back on the grid.
“This provides a path for lowering the cost of energy even more,” Keith Longtin, general manager of GE’s wind product line, told Quartz. “We think by being able to integrate the storage into the turbine and by being able to provide predictable power it’s going to minimize a lot of the balancing the grid has to do today.”