Hydraulic-Pneumatic Energy Storage and Power Conditioning Device

Physical Sciences : Mechanical

Available for licensing

Inventors

  • Joaquin Campos, M.S. , Institute for Advanced Technology
  • Raul Longoria, Ph.D. , Mechanical Engineering
  • Mark Crawford, Ph.D. , Institute for Advanced Technology

Background/unmet need

The continuing proliferation of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, is creating a demand for power conditioning devices. The wind turbine, for example, is an excellent power generation device when the wind is blowing consistently. However, this rarely occurs. Wind is variable, and therefore power generated from a wind turbine is also variable. The electric power infrastructure was designed to transport power that is much more consistent in amperage and voltage, such as that generated from coal-fired boilers, natural gas-fired boilers, or even water elevation changes (hydroelectric). The existing electric power infrastructure, the grid, demands consistent power, which creates the need for power conditioning equipment to complement sustainable energy generation equipment.

Invention Description

Researchers at the Center for Electromechanics at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a novel power conditioning system that utilizes mechanical energy to store and transfer a consistent electrical  power flow that is generated from inconsistent renewable power sources. The system is robust, using mechanical hardware that is known for reliability and performance under harsh conditions. The system is scalable, with a design that can be constructed to match the maximum output of the generation system from which it is supplied.

Benefits/Advantages

  • Allows for multiple source power input
  • Insensitive to quality of power input
  • Capable of providing a shaped power output that can be application/load specific
  • Increased energy storage charge cycle life
  • No dump load necessary for "excess" power generation - stores all input
  • Completely passive system - increases simplicity

Market potential/applications

Global installed capacity of wind power generation equipment was 238 GW at the end of 2011, compared to 18 GW in 2000. Similarly, solar photovoltaic power generation grew from just 1.5 GW installed capacity in 2000 to 65 GW globally in 2011, making it the fastest growing alternative energy source.