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Hawaii wind farm leans on giant battery bank

A123 Systems lands a deal to supply 11 megawatts worth of battery systems at Hawaiian wind farm, its third grid storage deal this week.

An artist's rendition of A123 Systems battery systems at a wind farm. A123 Systems

Speedy lithium ion batteries, the power source for consumer electronics and electric vehicles, are making inroads into the renewable energy business.

A123 Systems today announced that a Hawaiian wind project developer will use its batteries to firm up power delivery into the grid. The Auwahi Wind project, which has a generating capacity of 21 megawatts, will be buttressed by a giant battery bank able to deliver 11 megawatts of power.

It's the second time this year that A123 Systems' storage systems, built around shipping container-size battery banks, were chosen to be co-located with a wind farm. The Laurel Mountain wind farm in West Virginia has a 32-megawatt battery bank attached to it, making it a more reliable source of electricity.

At the Auwahi Wind project, the batteries will be used to provide a more steady supply of power, which dips and rises with changing wind. The system will also be tapped to maintain a steady voltage.

One of the advantages of lithium ion batteries is that they are able to supply lots of power very quickly. A123 Systems said its power electronics can detect fluctuations in supply and be able to send 11 megwawatts of power in milliseconds. Adding storage to renewable energy generation is more commercially viable in Hawaii because it has the highest electricity prices in the U.S.

The Auwahi Wind project is the third grid storage project A123 Systems has announced this week. It will also supply smaller systems to reduce peak power load at substations in Hawaii and Massachusetts.