The world’s largest battery array, with enough capacity to store 36 megawatt-hours of energy, has just been constructed in Zhangbei, China. To put that in perspective, that’s enough energy to run all of Google’s data centers for seven weeks. power almost 12,000 homes for an hour in the event of a complete power failure.
Just as individual computers have been replaced by data centers, which power the “cloud” and are really just gigantic aggregations of servers acting in concert, the age of gigantism and parallelism have arrived for grid-scale batteries. The array in Zhangbei is attached to a sizable, 140MW wind and solar installation, making the batteries an integral part of smoothing the output of this installation.
BYD automotive, which usually puts its batteries into cars, furnished the project with arrays of its batteries “larger than a football field.” The company is 10 percent owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway fund. Grid storage is quite a pivot for the troubled firm, which is apparently unable to sell electric vehicles to a Chinese market that is mostly uninterested in them.
Will the move to grid-scale storage save BYD, and Buffet’s investment? That depends on quite a few factors, but one thing is for sure: just as the lithium ion batteries in most electric vehicles are comprised of arrays of smaller cells originally designed for consumer electronics, the world’s largest batteries will continue to be made out of huge arrays of full-size batteries.