Supercapacitors in the Grid
Published: May 28, 2010 Category: Smart Technology

NanoMarkets/Smart Grid Analysis in its analysis of the market opportunities in the Smart Grid space has come to the conclusion that these advantages will bring important new business revenues to the supercapacitor business.    However, we also note that supercapacitors have low energy densities so there is no danger that they could supplant batteries in a generalized sense.


Improvements and Markets


The interest in using supercapacitors is partly being driven by the performance and price/performance improvements that supercapacitors have experienced:


·  Over the past 30 years, we have seen capacity increase from 0.5 by NEC in 1976 to greater than 5000 F today.


· The cost reduction for supercapacitors has been impressive over the past 10 years.  Costs have decreased from $0.6-$2.5/F in 1997 to $0.3-$0.7 /F in 2002 to less than 10 cents/F today.


· Supercapacitors are a long-term solution with at least 20-year lifetimes and are generally viewed as near-zero maintenance components.  These are perfect characteristics for a grid system.  Notoriously such systems get very little attention.


Today the applications for supercapacitors in the Smart Grid are limited, but will expand as prices continue to drop.  Analysis conducted by NanoMarkets/Smart Grid Analysis suggests that:


· Some of the first applications for Supercapacitors in the Smart Grid will become cost effective for power quality and grid instability applications where long-term storage is not a requirement.  In such applications, supercapacitors are ideal as they can unload the power faster than batteries, and recharge much more quickly than batteries.


· Supercapacitors are finding profitable application in regenerative braking systems of both automobiles and light rail systems.  We predict these applications will drive significant growth in the near term.


· An emerging application of the current crop of supercapacitors will be in a hybrid configuration with lead-acid systems.  By using supercapacitors in parallel with batteries, when short bursts of power are necessary, supercapacitors can supply the power without drawing so heavily on the lead-acid battery, which is known to do damage to the overall lifetime of these batteries.

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