A breakthrough for solar power in Arizona

German company sets up battery storage system to ensure grid reliability for renewable energy resources.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  June 2, 2017 at 6:15 AM
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June 2 (UPI) -- A network of batteries that will store energy generated from the sun has the potential to "revolutionize" the U.S. low-carbon grid, a German company said.

German utility company E.ON announced the opening of its 10 megawatt Iron Horse lithium battery system in Arizona, its first such project in North America. By storing energy generated through solar power, the company said it's established a reliable source of energy for more than 400,000 customers.

"Energy storage has the potential to truly revolutionize the 21st century grid, and we are excited to be leading the way in this innovative new market segment," Mark Frigo, the vice president in charge of North American energy storage systems for E.ON., said in a statement.

The German company is one of the largest utility companies in the world and is already building batteries in Texas that have the ability to store 20 megawatts of power from wind energy systems.

Combined, E.ON has at least 3 gigawatts of power installed in North America and claims a leadership position in the region in onshore wind farms. Almost half of that capacity is in the United States.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry in April called for an investigation into the resilience and reliability of the nation's energy grid. With renewable resources like solar and wind deemed variable because of the nature of their power origins, the secretary said the issue was a critical one given regulatory burdens enacted by previous administrations that could impact legacy resources like coal-fired power generation.

Coal-fired power in the United States peaked in 2007 at 2 billion kilowatthours and reached 1.2 billion kilowatthours last year. Renewables, meanwhile, are gaining traction in the market and three trade groups -- the Advanced Energy Economy, the American Wind Energy Association, and the Solar Energy Industries Association -- said in a letter to the secretary that renewable energy resources "are proven technologies that help support grid reliability."

Arizona is in the Top 10 in terms of installed solar power in the United States, drawing on the sun to meet about 5 percent of its total electricity demand. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the costs associated with solar power are down more than 60 percent over the last five years.

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