Intelligent Energy

GE, Arista to backup solar, wind with battery system

GE, Arista to backup solar, wind with battery system

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Couple real-time demand monitoring tech with GE's battery and you get a system that can store electricity from renewable energy sources and release it when demand for energy peaks.

General Electric has partnered with Arista Power to make and sell systems that can store electricity from on-site solar and wind sources as well as from the grid and release it when demand peaks to help cut power bills.

GE's Durathon nickel-salt battery --  the product of a $100 million investment by the company's transportation division -- will be used in Arista's Power on Demand system. Arista designed a system that can store energy generated by wind turbines, solar photovoltaic and the electric grid. Real-time monitoring technology is used to track and help smooth out power demand on the grid. When demand for energy spikes, the system releases the stored power to reduce "peak demand" charges, prolong battery life and ultimately lower commercial electricity costs. Peak demand charges can account for up to 30 percent to 70 percent of a commercial electric bill.

In short, the system combines software and battery tech to give customers more control over their power. The systems aren't meant for the average homeowner. Instead, it's designed for large institutions like college campuses and hospitals that have solar or wind onsite and want to get the most out of their renewable energy source, not to mention cut their power bills.

About the battery

The Durathon is a sodium-metal halide battery made for the telecommunications industry, uninterruptable power supply and utilities markets. It was designed to store a lot of energy in a small space. GE says the batteries are 50 percent smaller and 25 percent lighter than "traditional lead acid batteries." The batteries last up to 20 years, operate effectively in extreme temperatures, requires no cooling and are recyclable, the company says. The batteries will be made in the company's new plant in Schenectady, New York.

The no cooling component could be the big selling feature for facilities. A lot of the energy storage uses sodium sulfur batteries, which can be hard to maintain because they run at high temperatures. As Greentech Media notes, that might be fine for a remote wind farm, but not so much for a data center.

Photo: Wind turbine at Ascension Auxiliay Airfield in the south Atlantic Ocean by Flickr user Lance Cheung, CC 2.0

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure