April 20, 2011 00:33 by Jeremy
Meet BESS: the Battery Energy Storage System. What exactly is BESS, you ask? Imagine a structure the size of a football-field, in the shape of a horseshoe. Big, right? So big, in fact, that it has to be "watered" down on a regular basis. This Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cad) contraption is actually thousands of 1.7V Ni-Cad batteries linked together.
Built in 2003 by GVEA (Golden Valley Electric Association) the BESS provides Fairbanks, Alaska with a backup power source. Fairbanks is known to have regular blackouts but thanks to BESS, outages have been reduced by more than 65%. Data gathered by GVEA indicates that the average person in 2003 experienced 3 and a half hours of no electricity; however, in 2010 the time was reduced to 45 minutes.
The BESS is not without its faults though. It was designed only as an interim power source while a backup generator can start, and can only produce roughly 27 megawatts of power for 15 minutes. "If there's a large outage, like 60 megawatts, it doesn't make up for the whole thing and then you have to shed people," said Mike Wright, Vice President of Transmission and Distribution at GVEA.
These "faults" are easily dismissed though, considering it does exactly what it was intended to do. A majority of the time, people won't even notice a blackout due to the BESS picking up on it instantly and providing the necessary power to cover. The BESS is always on, keeping voltages at the right levels in transmission lines when it's not being used for blackouts.