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Alternative Energy Storage: Why Frequency Regulation Is Important

Nov. 25, 2008 6:00 AM ETALTI, BCONQ, ESNC, AXPWQ16 Comments
John Petersen profile picture
John Petersen

In August I wrote an introductory article entitled Grid-based Energy Storage: Birth of a Giant. Over the last few months the utility sub-sector been very active and now might be a good time to drill a little deeper into the kinds of utility applications that can benefit from cost-effective energy storage. Once again, I want to caution readers that I’m a little out of my depth when it comes to providing simple explanations for complex technical issues. But I believe an understandable overview can far more valuable to investors than too much detail. Once again, I'm not seeking perfection and will be more than happy with B- grades from power professionals and engineers.

To maintain a level of continuity, I’ll begin with a graph from the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory that shows statewide electricity use in California on July 31, 2007.

While the 24-hour curve looks pretty smooth, it gets more complex when you start looking at shorter time intervals. I found the following example of what a three-hour morning segment might look like in a paper from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory titled “Frequency Regulation Basics and Trends” (December 2004).

While the ORNL graph may seem complex, it’s really fairly straightforward. The smooth blue line shows how on-line generating resources ramp up from 3,600 MW to 4,000 MW over a three-hour period from 7 to 10 a.m. The jagged green line overlying the blue shows actual demand during the same time period. The very jagged red line at the bottom is simply a scaled up representation of the minute-to-minute differences between the blue supply line and the green demand line. That 60 MW slice of highly variable demand is the domain of frequency regulation.

Historically, utilities were able to avoid frequency regulation issues by maintaining on-line generating capacity at a

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John Petersen profile picture
I'm a lawyer and accountant who's devoted the last four decades to advising entrepreneurs on corporate finance, SEC registration and reporting, and corporate governance matters. All of my client projects have involved high levels of uncertainty, compressed timelines, and urgent financial needs that demanded unparalleled responsiveness. I know how to get major projects completed on time and within budget. I'm a 1979 graduate of the Notre Dame Law School and a 1976 graduate of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. I was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1980 and subsequently licensed to practice as a CPA in 1981. While I don't hold myself out as a practicing accountant, I regularly use my in-depth knowledge of accounting methods, processes, and procedures to offer nuts and bolts counsel to clients who need integrated advice on finance-driven legal matters.As general counsel for the C Change Group, I'm involved in all of that company's domestic and international initiatives.

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