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Power Plant Hybrids: Combining Lithium and Natural Gas

Written By Christian DeHaemer

Posted May 1, 2017

I tend to think of lithium-ion batteries in terms of charging something relatively small, like my laptop, phone, or electric car.

I don’t think of them helping run power plants…

But as of a few weeks ago, they are.

Southern California Edison has created a kind of hybrid power plant, pairing a lithium-ion battery with natural gas systems to help the plant become more efficient and leak less.

Bloomberg writes, “Southern California Edison, General Electric Co. and Wellhead Power Solutions partnered to install 10-megawatt lithium-ion batteries…The plants are designed to fire up during periods of peak demand. The batteries, which can provide instant power while gas turbines ramp up, are expected to reduce fuel use and lead to emission reductions of at least 60 percent…”

power plant 2

It’s rare to see renewable energy sources working in tandem with fossil fuels like natural gas, but with increasing global calls for renewables, solutions like this hybrid plant are just the first step toward combining various energy sources.

The general manager of GE Digital Grid energy storage solutions said, “‘Really, you need to look at it as a unique system. It’s not comparable to a peaker, or to a pure battery. A pure battery at the end has the limitation of how long it can be on — and the gas has a limitation of how quickly it can start up. When you put them together, to some extent, you can run them forever.’”

If this plant ends up working well, we expect to see more pop up all over the country.

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