Wind farms generate power until the breeze stops blowing. Solar plants work as long as the sun shines but not at nighttime.
That unpredictability is one of the major barriers to widespread use of renewable energy, but a Kyle company believes it has found a solution. Xtreme Power designs, installs and operates the world’s largest batteries, said Alan Gotcher, the company’s CEO.
“We can store electricity when there’s excess and use it when there’s not enough,” Gotcher said. “And we do that at a very large scale.”
Founded in 2006, Xtreme Power installed its first storage system to rotate a telescope on the South Pole in 2008. Since then, the company has designed and installed energy storage systems at wind farms in Hawaii, Alaska and Texas. In September, the company earned a national innovation award for its storage system at Duke Energy’s Notrees Wind Farm west of Odessa.
The company has 70 employees, most of them engineers, and manages the storage and release of power from a control room at its Kyle facility, Gotcher said. Xtreme Power’s work to smooth out energy distribution prevents an average of one blackout and three brownouts per month on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, he added.
Kyle residents who have only seen Xtreme Power from the outside might be surprised to learn so many things are happening behind the warehouse’s nondescript walls, Gotcher said.
“You wouldn’t know it by driving by, but what we do inside is kind of unique,” he said.
Gotcher said Xtreme Power also uses its technology to help traditional power generators manage how and when they issue electricity to national or statewide power grids.
“We don’t really care if the electricity’s generated from a nuclear power plant or gas turbine or wind farm,” he said. “Electricity’s electricity. We’ll store it close to [the generator] and make the electricity available when it makes economic sense.”
Gotcher said Xtreme Power is also beginning to expand beyond North America. Most of the company’s projects have been sold in the United States, but Xtreme Power is beginning to win contracts in Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany and is in discussions with Japanese companies that are turning to wind power in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011.
In addition, the company has reduced project costs by about 15 percent each year for the past three years with the goal of making its technology affordable for more commercial and industrial customers, Gotcher said.
“The rate of market adoption will be paced by the cost of the system,” he said. “The lower we can provide these kinds of products and services, the bigger the market’s going to be. The whole industry right now is working very hard to reduce the cost of these systems with the thought that people will buy more of them at a lower price.”
Kyle-based Xtreme Power has been involved in a number of power storage projects, mostly in North America.
South Pole telescope: The University of Chicago chose Xtreme Power’s energy storage system to rotate a 200-ton telescope on the South Pole.
Ford Motor Co. Michigan assembly plant: Xtreme Power operates one of the largest solar power generation systems in Michigan, where Ford builds and tests electric vehicles.
Duke Energy Notrees Wind Farm near Odessa: The company designed, installed and operates the largest battery storage system in the world that is integrated with a wind farm.
Xtreme Power, 1120 Goforth Road, Kyle, 512-268-8191, www.xtremepower.com