Google parent Alphabet Inc. GOOGL 0.58% is pitching an idea to store power from renewable energy in tanks of molten salt and cold liquid, an example of the tech giant trying to marry its far-reaching ambitions with business demand. Alphabet's research lab, dubbed X, said Monday that it has developed plans to store electricity generated from solar panels or wind turbines as thermal energy in hot salt and cold liquids, such as antifreeze. The lab is seeking partners in the energy industry, including power-plant developers and utilities, to build a prototype to plug into the electrical grid. Whether the project, called Malta, ever comes to market depends as much on a sound business model as it does on science. Academics said the technology is likely years away from market, if it ever makes it.
Future grid scenario analysis requires a major departure from conventional power system planning, where only a handful of most critical conditions is typically analyzed. To capture the inter-seasonal variations in renewable generation of a future grid scenario necessitates the use of computationally intensive time-series analysis. In this paper, we propose a planning framework for fast stability scanning of future grid scenarios using a novel feature selection algorithm and a novel self-adaptive PSO-k-means clustering algorithm. To achieve the computational speed-up, the stability analysis is performed only on small number of representative cluster centroids instead of on the full set of operating conditions. As a case study, we perform small-signal stability and steady-state voltage stability scanning of a simplified model of the Australian National Electricity Market with significant penetration of renewable generation. The simulation results show the effectiveness of the proposed approach. Compared to an exhaustive time series scanning, the proposed framework reduced the computational burden up to ten times, with an acceptable level of accuracy.
The problem of controlling energy systems (generation, transmission, storage, investment) introduces a number of optimization problems which need to be solved in the presence of different types of uncertainty. We highlight several of these applications, using a simple energy storage problem as a case application. Using this setting, we describe a modeling framework based around five fundamental dimensions which is more natural than the standard canonical form widely used in the reinforcement learning community. The framework focuses on finding the best policy, where we identify four fundamental classes of policies consisting of policy function approximations (PFAs), cost function approximations (CFAs), policies based on value function approximations (VFAs), and lookahead policies. This organization unifies a number of competing strategies under a common umbrella.
Renewable power sources such as wind and solar are inflexible in their energy production, which requires demand to rapidly follow supply in order to maintain energy balance. Promising controllable demands are air-conditioners and heat pumps which use electric energy to maintain a temperature at a setpoint. Such Thermostatically Controlled Loads (TCLs) have been shown to be able to follow a power curve using reactive control. In this paper we investigate the use of planning under uncertainty to pro-actively control an aggregation of TCLs to overcome temporary grid imbalance. We present a formal definition of the planning problem under consideration, which we model using the Multi-Agent Markov Decision Process (MMDP) framework. Since we are dealing with hundreds of agents, solving the resulting MMDPs directly is intractable. Instead, we propose to decompose the problem by decoupling the interactions through arbitrage. Decomposition of the problem means relaxing the joint power consumption constraint, which means that joining the plans together can cause overconsumption. Arbitrage acts as a conflict resolution mechanism during policy execution, using the future expected value of policies to determine which TCLs should receive the available energy. We experimentally compare several methods to plan with arbitrage, and conclude that a best response-like mechanism is a scalable approach that returns near-optimal solutions.
The two biggest societal challenges for the twenty-first century are also the biggest opportunities – automation and climate change. The epitaph of fossil fuels with its dark cloud burning a hole in the ozone layer is giving way to a rise of solar and wind farms worldwide. Servicing these plantations are fleets of robots and drones, providing greater possibilities of expanding CleanTech to the most remote regions of the planet.