Over the past year and into 2017 the development of energy distribution and storage technology remains the Holy Grail of our energy future.
THE ABILITY TO transmit energy over increasing distances is a game changer, as is the ability to store massive amounts of energy to sell or use as demanded.
Two technology breakthroughs in 2016 are worth mentioning.
In Milan, Italy last year the Prysmian Group, specialists in the energy and telecom cable systems industry, achieved two record-breaking milestones in the field of power transmission. These were the successful testing of its new 700kV MI-PPL (Mass Impregnated) and 600kV extruded (XLPE) cable systems for high voltage direct current (HVDC) applications.
It was the first time in the HVDC cable industry that voltages at these high levels have been achieved.
“These are also the first developments in cable technology that enable HVDC power transmission systems beyond 3GW per cable bipole, and as such, are capable of more than double the power transmission capability of DC cable systems currently in service,” says Massimo Battaini, the senior vice president Energy Projects at Prysmian Group.
Such voltage upgrades also allow increasing the power transmission capability by up to 15 percent beyond the previously highest voltage 525kV XLPE technology and beyond that currently achieved with high performance PPL technology at a voltage level of 600kV, respectively.
HVDC cable links are key components in delivering sustainable energy systems for the bulk transmission of electrical power over long distances.
While many in our own energy sector talk up local distribution, the reality is – the country relies on its HVDC link connecting Benmore in the South Island and Haywoods in the lower North Island, which is the backbone of the distribution system.
The Pole 3 infrastructure at Haywoods, where the cable comes out of Cook Strait and power is converted to AC, is one of the most earthquake secure built pieces of infrastructure on the planet. Built within the past decade, it is designed to withstand an earthquake of a size that would flatten Wellington and still keep power flowing north to Auckland.
The ultimate battery race
Energy storage technology on large and small scales is a goal pursued by commercial and academic interest in laboratories around the globe.
Without a small battery, for instance, with the same level of energy as a tank of gas, electric vehicles will remain an expensive ‘green’ novelty.
Consequently, tremendous effort is put into research worldwide to improve lithium-ion batteries, and a breakthrough is claimed every few weeks.
Towards the end of last year the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) developed a new technology it says increases the storage capacity of rechargeable batteries by 50 percent.
The new technology replaces the traditional graphite anode with a pure silicon anode, increasing the storage capacity of this component of the lithium-ion battery by a factor of 10 and the storage capacity of the whole battery up to 50 percent.
Sjoerd Wittkampf, technology transfer manager at ECN, says the goal is to supply the technology to large battery manufacturers. “In our future demonstration plant, we want to produce silicon anodes for our first clients and demonstrate that this technology is competitive when mass-produced.”
To commercialise the new technology and attract investors LeydenJar Technologies BV has been founded, named after the famous Leyden Jar of 1746, the precursor of the battery. Having obtained funding for the first year, the start-up company says it is already in discussions with large international battery manufacturers and hopes to open a demonstration plant in 2018.