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The World's Largest Battery is Bigger Than You Think

Written By: S.C. Ringgenberg

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When most people hear the word battery they probably think of an AA battery, a D battery, or perhaps the battery in their car or RV. But what would be your guess as to the size of the world's largest battery? Would it be as big as an automobile? The size of cargo container?

How about a battery the size of a factory containing smaller battery arrays longer than a football field? This isn't science fiction; this battery system was constructed in China late last year. Built by BYD and the State Grid Corporation of China, this gargantuan power storage facility resides in the city of Zhangbei, in the Hebei Province in a rather ordinary looking warehouse. Part of a large green energy project that can generate 140 megawatts of renewable power derived from both wind and solar sources, this battery array can store a whopping 36 megawatt hours (mWh) of power. The entire system is controlled by a smart power transmission system that greatly increases the efficiency of renewable energy (by about 5-10%) and enables the giant battery to provide power during peak load times and to store power when both wind and sun are unavailable due to weather conditions or nightfall. According to calculations published in Popular Science magazine, 36 megawatt hours is enough to power 12,000 homes for at least an hour.

China Leads the Way

Although the People's Republic of China has been cursed with a terrible reputation in environmental circles for air, soil, and water pollution due to that nation's lax pollution controls and its heavy reliance on coal and oil for power, it is nevertheless the world's largest producer of solar panels. The Chinese government, aware that its current patterns of energy usage are unsustainable for the future, is making a concerted effort to expand the country's use of renewable resources like wind, solar, and other advanced technologies, including massive power storage systems like the battery in Zhangbei.

This is a very forward-looking project because it addresses one of the most serious obstacles confronting any nation that wants to employ renewable energy sources like wind and solar on an industrial scale, which is: how do you store the power generated by your solar arrays and wind turbines if it's greater than the existing energy grid's current needs? Unlike water, which can be stored in reservoirs until it's needed, there aren't many ways to store electricity unless it's warehoused in an array of storage batteries. But if you are planning on generating energy on an industrial scale, then you need a battery or batteries exactly like what the Chinese have built. As Xiu Bingling, Deputy Director of China's National Energy Administration noted in an announcement that was widely quoted on the Internet late last year: "The large-scale implementation of clean and green energy, such as wind and solar power can only be realized when the technical difficulties of this new energy application in the utility system are resolved." He added, "This State Grid project demonstrates a solution that will be the model of development for China's new energy resources."

Uses for Massive Battery

The State Grid Corporation of China paired with BYD (Build Your Dreams), a manufacturer of electric cars and rechargeable batteries to create this energy storing behemoth. BYD, originally located in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, started out as a maker of ordinary batteries and vehicles before changing direction to become one of China's biggest manufacturers of electric and environmentally friendly transportation. Since it first opened its doors, the company has branched out to become a major source for innovative electric and renewable energy products. It now produces rechargeable batteries for autos, electric bicycles and cell phones, as well as being one of the People's Republic of China's major manufacturers of solar panels, annually producing panels capable of producing 1 gigawatt of power. This firm was chosen to participate in the massive battery project in part because its Iron-Phosphate battery technology has a service life of over 20 years, and because BYD had also developed "peak shaving and load-leveling" charge and discharge technologies.

This massive green energy generation and storage project cost the Chinese more $500 million dollars and is only the opening salvo in a projected "Golden Sun" program that will eventually be nation-wide and will enable the Chinese to become one of the world leaders in the use of cutting edge renewable energy technologies. The use of technologies like renewable solar, wind, and hydro power, when coupled with power storage facilities like the giant battery will also feed China's burgeoning energy needs and provide constant, uninterrupted power no matter what the weather conditions are. Given its serious commitment to renewable, green energy resources, China will almost certainly be able to achieve its goal of generating 9.5% of its energy needs through renewable sources by the target date of 2015.

Look for some amazing technological advances in green energy coming from China in the very near future.