Solar battery infrastructure, analysis development in BISE – Spectrum Information 1

MILWAUKEE – The solar energy infrastructure was built in Wisconsin and continues to grow. Now, more and more battery technology is being used in the country in order to supply houses with solar energy even at night.

What you need to know

  • We Energies has so far announced two large solar production and battery storage systems for this year

  • Battery technology enables the use of solar energy at night or when the sun is not shining

  • UW researcher pioneering technology that simultaneously generates and stores solar energy

  • We Energies said that the emphasis on solar and other renewable energies will save money for tariff payers

For this year, We Energies has announced two massive solar projects so far, one with 200 megawatts (MW) of solar power generation in Kenosha County and the other with 250 MW in Rock and Walworth Counties. It is enough to supply 60 or 75 thousand households with electricity. The projects also have solar battery storage capacity.

"They can generate electricity, but they can also store some of that excess generation in those big batteries," said Brendan Conway, a spokesman for We Energies. "When the sun goes down, they can then feed this energy into the power grid to supply all of our customers."

Brendan Conway looks at the We Energies solar plant in Brown Deer, WI.

185 MW of solar power will be stored in batteries between the two projects. It enables houses to be supplied with solar energy when the sun is not shining.

"We can store what would otherwise be lost to generate electricity and then feed it back into the grid when those wind and solar plants may not be producing electricity," said Conway.

Song Jin, a chemistry professor at UW-Madison who studies solar energy and solar battery technology, was excited about the projects.

"I was very excited to see this, I didn't know this was happening in Wisconsin," said Jin. "I know that this is an increasing trend worldwide."

Jin's research team developed a method called solar flow technology. They improved a method whereby the same device harvests and uses solar energy, but stores it at the same time. In theory, this would enable a user to be completely self-sufficient in terms of electricity.

"I think this could be even more relevant, especially for people in remote areas," said Jin.

That technology is still a few years old, but Jin said that homes and buildings that are off-grid don't need power lines extended to where they are supposed to be powered by electricity.

Jin said solar battery storage systems, such as those planned by We Energies, have expanded globally in recent years. He is encouraged to see Wisconsin – a state without the same access to the sun as the southern part of the country – begin storing solar energy.

“That actually means that the Solar Plus storage system is mature, it is actually already taking off,” said Jin.

Storing solar energy can add to overall electricity reliability, Jin said. After a cold snap that left millions of people without electricity in Texas for days, diversified power sources offer more assurance that the lights will stay on.

"Those in my opinion will likely give you the most robust response and flexibility when you are in the kind of crisis you are seeing (in Texas)," Jin said.

According to Conway, We Energies has been working on renewable energies for years and has already reduced its CO2 emissions by 50% since 2005. Their goal is to be net carbon neutral in power generation by 2050, and the renewable energy economic environment could help them achieve that goal.

We energies solar panels

"The prices of solar energy, and now batteries, have just come down in the last five to ten years," said Conway. "So now it's available at a lower cost for companies like ours to do."

In autumn, We Energies announced the closure of two fossil-fuel-fired power plants. The company also plans to invest $ 2 billion in new renewable energy by 2025. The two solar battery systems announced this year are part of this initiative.

Ultimately, Conway said this will save installment payers a billion dollars over the next 20 years. We Energies says it is not finished investing in renewable energies.

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