Soitec and Maxwell Technologies win US$1.39 million contract for storage R&D

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The California Energy Commission will fund a two-phase research programme combining an energy storage system with concentrated PV technology.

Maxwell Technologies has been awarded a US$1.39 million contract to fund design and integration of an ultracapacitor-based energy storage system with Soitec's Concentrix CPV system located on the campus of University of California, San Diego and a second commercial scale system at Soitec's solar power plant in Southern California.

Last summer, France-based Soitec received a Sunpath (Scaling Up Nascent PV At Home) award for US$25 million to support the Southern Californian facility by the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.

The integrated systems will also take advantage of other technology advances, including solar forecasting and predictive energy control, to maximise the benefit of incorporating ultracapacitor energy storage. 

The project starts in June 2013 and will run through November 2015. Independent evaluation of the performance of the integrated systems will be performed by DNV KEMA under a sub-contract with Maxwell.

“This innovative energy storage system combining ultracapacitors and Soitec's CPV technology, which is already installed on campus, is a welcome addition to UCSD's existing microgrid and provides a unique diversification of our existing energy storage capacity,” said Byron Washom, director of strategic initiatives, University of California, San Diego. 

“Investing in solar energy research is vital to California reaching its goal of 33% renewable generation by 2020,” said California Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. “This innovative project combining energy storage with concentrated photovoltaic technology has the potential to increase the state's renewable energy portfolio, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and create a more reliable electricity grid.”

Soitec's new fifth-generation Concentrix CPV systems incorporate modules with a 30% module efficiency (or two to three times the efficiency of conventional PV technology).

Ultracapacitors are energy storage devices that charge rapidly from any electrical energy source and discharge their stored energy on demand. In combination with a PV system, their function will be to act as a standby reservoir of electrical energy to mitigate the variability of solar energy generation.

This firming of the output of a utility-scale commercial CPV system is intended to reduce demand on the electric grid to fill in short-term solar valleys in order to maintain a facility's electricity output. In addition to reducing the variability of a solar power plant, integrated ultracapacitor-CPV systems will benefit public utility customers by reducing investment in utility generation capacity to meet transient peak power demand.

Unlike batteries, which produce and store energy by means of a chemical reaction, Maxwell's ultracapacitor products store energy in an electric field. This electrostatic energy storage mechanism enables ultracapacitors to charge and discharge in as little as fractions of a second, perform consistently over a broad temperature range (-40 to +65C), and operate reliably for up to one million or more charge/discharge cycles.

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