Renewable energy has been growing at breakneck speed. By 2040, according to the International Energy Agency, wind and solar are expected to add 74% of net new generation capacity around the world.
But what if they could grow even faster? What if you could store megawatts generated on a windy and sunny Sunday, when the power may not be needed, and release it on Monday morning as factories open for business? Add in smart software that acts as a traffic cop and sends renewable power — either on the grid when demand is high or stores it in big batteries — and you can get closer to making renewables available on demand, regardless of the weather or the time of the day.
That’s the idea behind a big new solar project in upstate New York. GE Renewable Energy just announced it has been selected to build what is expected to become the largest hybrid solar energy storage system in New York State.
The owner and operator Convergent Energy + Power will build the system at three rural locations near Lake Ontario. It is planned to be capable of handling 123 megawatt-hours of energy, enough to supply the equivalent of 5,400 U.S. homes. “Hybrid is the next frontier in renewables,” says Mike Bowman, chief technology officer of GE’s Renewable Hybrids business. “It’s a paradigm change driven by technology development and market development.” He says GE is in a position “to make a huge impact and be a leader in the space. We’ve got the right horsepower, the right people, the capabilities, the connections and the brand. We’re excited about it.”
Each of the three locations will be designed to have a battery connected to a solar array on one end and to an inverter on the other. The inverters transform the direct current generated by solar cells and stored in the batteries into the alternating current people use at home and work. The benefits include increased energy efficiency, reduced operating costs and a smoother integration to the power grid that provides a more predictable supply of renewable electrons.
GE and Convergent Energy + Power have started building the hybrid systems and expect to bring them into service storing and supplying energy later this summer. The deal also includes a 20-year service agreement with GE.
Pairing energy storage with solar inverters will give New Yorkers more access to solar energy. Being able to release to solar power will also help the state reduce its reliance on conventional power plants during peak demand hours. Some of these conventional power plants, called peakers, use coal or diesel for fuel.
GE already has set up a solar energy storage system for Helios Energy in New York. In 2019, Helios Energy ordered two GE energy storage systems for its solar array in the central part of the state. GE also was selected that same year for a similar project in Australia.