Friday, November 4, 2016

This farmer makes use of solar power, even in the dark

Rows of solar panels are spread over 25 acres of Nicholas Beatty’s
farm near 
Hartwell, England.  Credit: Andrew Testa for The New York Times

HARTWELL, ENGLAND — A new cash crop has sprung up on Nicholas Beatty’s enchanting farm near here. Rows of gray solar panels range over about 25 acres, turning sunlight into electricity, as dog-size muntjac deer hop by.
The panels themselves, trouble-free money earners that feed into the electric grid, are no longer unusual on farms in Britain or other countries. What’s new in Mr. Beatty’s field is a hulking 40-foot-long shipping container.
Stacked inside, in what look like drawers, are about 200 lithium-ion cells that make up a battery large enough to store a substantial portion of the electricity the solar farm puts out.
The battery and its software give Mr. Beatty an advantage over other solar panel farmers. Power prices in Britain and elsewhere rise and fall, sometimes strikingly, during the day and over the year, depending on the supply and demand. By storing power in the battery, Mr. Beatty can feed it into the grid when prices are high. “The battery effectively takes power off the line when there is too much and puts it on when there is too little,” he said.
The battery inside a storage container on Nicholas Beatty’s property can store a substantial portion of the electricity from his solar farm. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Mr. Beatty is one of many entrepreneurs and businesses trying to play the fast-shifting electric power landscape. The global effort to combat climate change is forcing what had been an old-line business to evolve. Polluting, coal-fired power stations are closing, while clean energy sources like wind and solar are growing fast. 
Mr. Beatty said the battery, which which costs about 825,000 pounds, or $1 million, could increase revenue for his solar farm by as much as £200,000 a year. In addition to making more by timing his delivery to the grid, he said he planned to enter an auction to become a standby source of power to compensate for unexpected drops in the grid.
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