Turning Backup Power Reserves Into Green Revenue (2023)

By Douglas Ridley, ATX Networks; Todd Pistorese, Supercapacitor Energy, LLC

Hybrid supercapacitors have several unique technical properties, such as a significantly greater number of charging/discharging cycles than other energy storage devices. As a result, communications service providers (CSPs) adopting this technology for standby power operations can generate revenue by participating in regional energy imbalance markets (EIMs) and pursuing energy arbitrage options offered by their local utilities. The utility industry created the EIM concept a few years ago to establish an energy bid market for providing flexible power reserves that can be tapped as needed to meet customers’ energy demands. This overview paper will explain how cable operators and other CSPs can adopt hybrid supercapacitors to create new revenue sources and curb carbon emissions by selling their idle energy back to utility companies — without compromising or interrupting their own backup power operations. For the most part, battery-based energy storage has not fundamentally changed over the past 2,000 years. In 1938, an excavation team working in southern Iraq unearthed what is now commonly known as the Babylon Battery, an ancient energy source that was essentially an archetype for the batteries that now provide backup power in telecommunications facilities. Like today’s lead-acid batteries, the roughly five-inch clay pots found in Iraq featured copper cylinders with encased iron rods, as well as liquid that apparently once acted as an electrolyte. Although legacy electrochemical batteries will likely extend their millennium-plus reign for decades to come, the recent introduction of energy storage devices that also incorporate an electrostatic, or non-electrochemical, design offers telecommunications providers, datacenters and other companies the ability to significantly improve the performance and safety of their backup electric power operations. Known as hybrid supercapacitors, these new storage devices also offer telecom providers the ability to create a promising revenue source via participation in energy arbitrage applications and the EIM, the focus of this paper. The utility industry created regional energy market mechanisms such as the EIM to take advantage of reserve power that can be tapped as needed to meet their customers’ ever-changing needs. Given the distributed nature of their facilities, telecom providers that adopt hybrid supercapacitors as an energy source could be prime contributors to the EIM, enabling them to generate new revenue. This paper seeks to provide readers with an introduction to hybrid supercapacitor technology, an understanding of how hybrid supercapacitors differ from traditional energy storage media and an appreciation of how those distinguishing characteristics enhance the technology’s ability to generate revenue for service providers through the sale of their idle stored energy. The paper also seeks to educate readers about today’s electric power grid and how it functions to meet the nation’s energy demands, as well as the critical role that new energy storage media such as hybrid supercapacitors can play in meeting those demands.

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