Hybrids Combine Technologies to Enhance Electricity Production

Rodney Nestor
Rodney Nestor
Research Writer
Rodney holds a Master’s degree in Arts and apart from working as a freelance writer, is a rather successful author of science fiction stories published in several literary read more
Last updated: August 09, 2023
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The power industry has witnessed an increase in all types of hybrid projects, whether combining solar with wind, wind with storage, storage with solar, or fossil fuels with renewable energy. All of these are making the traditional ways of generating power outdated.

The discussion of energy transition in the power industry is dominated by hybrid power plants, as combining different kinds of technology allows the plant to produce way more power than a traditional electricity plant. Hybrids can use fuels like diesel and natural gas and also include microgrids. Advocates for renewable energy support hybrid technology as a way to integrate more renewables.

Varied Scopes of Hybrid Projects

When it comes to hybrid projects, there is no box to fit them in, as the size and scope can differ widely. The development of hybrid projects is being supported by the Inflation Reduction Act, which was recently passed and has already led to different installations in the US.

A good example is a project in Oregon that was recently launched. It includes a hybrid utility-scale plant that joins wind, solar generation, and energy storage. The project is run by NextEra Energy Resources and Portland General Electric.

Research groups have revealed that hybrid projects can include two or more generation sources, regardless of the source. Companies are even designing hybrids with pumped hydro storage, hydrogen, and geothermal energy.

When it comes to renewable energy, hybrid projects usually combine at least two forms of solar, wind, and battery energy storage system (BESS), but BESS is always used. The improved focus of hybrid projects is due to better resource availability and utility interconnection upgrades. While a single solar plant is limited, a hybrid solar plant with wind and BESS produces way more energy.

Extensive Increase in the Investments in Hybrid Projects

Some of the major players in the energy and electricity field have reported the progress of operating hundreds of hybrid plants. The Berkeley lab revealed that at the end of 2021, the company had about 300 hybrids with over 1 MW of capacity operating across the United States. This gives a total of about 36 GW of generating capacity.

The report pointed out that solar-plus storage facilities are the most common, and most of this impressive capacity was due to the act of adding BESS to their existing solar plants. Berkeley has also figured out about 20 different ways to form hybrid plants, some of which include fossil fuels.

The Rosendin Renewable Energy Group has stated that they are facing a lot of applications where they have to implement a battery energy storage system into their current PV facility. Due to this, the company has various projects with different levels of progress. These projects include DC and AC-connected PV with storage.

As for Arevon, the most common configuration for their hybrid projects combines a PV solar array with an AC couple and a lithium-ion BESS. They use these projects to provide renewable energy to local areas in California and Nevada. Other hybrid facilities use solar and energy storage systems with wind farms if the area has a reliable wind and solar resource.

Arevon has stated that their main challenge is the intermittency of the source of renewable energy, but this is less important when the BESS is added to a plant, making it easy to regulate voltage and frequency.

The Impact of Legislation

The Inflation Reduction Act is expected to bring a lot of change for companies that operate hybrid plants. Before, the tax laws stated that companies with power plants could only receive an Investment Tax Credit on a battery installation that has solar PV. But, this is only possible for power plants that have a multiple-resource ID, which shows that the operator can use the solar PV and battery as separate power plants and maximize revenue.

But now, even those with a single-resource ID can qualify for the tax credit under the new law. Battery-powered plants on their own qualify, leading to more tax benefits for those in the industry without limiting them to solar. Hybrid plants with battery components can receive Investment Tax Credits.

Also, with the advancements in technology, even hybrid system operators have started using fossil fuels. Fossil fuel generators are used with battery energy storage and solar PV, and this allows the operator to use grid management software to improve the generator’s efficiency.

The grid management software is used with a rapid battery dispatch to make macro adjustments on the generator, which would not have been possible with fossil fuel alone. If the generator is forced to increase power alone, it wastes fuel.

Focus on Exploring New Technologies

Another highlight of hybrid technologies is the fact that it gives companies a chance to explore different kinds of power. Singapore recently stated that it would study the success of a hybrid energy system with wind, tidal, wave, and solar energies. This is done by Keppel Infrastructure, the National University of Singapore, and Nanyang Technological University.

There are different ways that a hybrid energy system can be created, whether by adding battery energy storage to solar power plants and wind farms or integrating hydropower plants with municipal microgrids. Using nuclear or renewable energy resources to produce green hydrogen or even connecting a solar facility to a natural gas plant is possible.

Other ways include setting up virtual power plants and integrating floating solar panels into hydro reservoirs. To form a hybrid plant, there must be flexibility because there are different kinds of power that can be combined together.

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