BY ILARIA VALTIMORA:
Questions about wind-and-storage projects have come up at pretty much every event held by ESR sister title A Word About Wind in the last two years.
However, while we can all agree that the intermittent nature of wind energy would benefit from a link to storage systems, we’ve seen little progress so far.
There have been some pioneering projects. Tesla’s 100MW battery system at Neoen’s 315MW Hornsdale wind farm, and Nexif picking Fluence to supply a 10MW storage system to its 212MW Lincoln Gap wind farm in Australia, are both good examples.
We’ve also seen deals in the US, with BP adding a 212kW battery to the 25MW Titan 1 wind farm in South Dakota; and offshore, with Equinor and Masdar installing a 1MW battery at their 30MW Hywind floating offshore scheme off the UK coast. But thus far, we’d argue there hasn’t been any major breakthrough to make wind-and-storage the norm.
However, recent research studies have shown that co-locating wind farms with storage would be important in the future energy system. A co-located system is one where the energy generation technology is on the same site as the storage, and with little geographical distance in between them. But what’s the benefit of this approach and what are the barriers to make it happen more?
Why co-location is important
We have already seen co-location playing a big role in solar-plus-storage projects. In truth, storage has had more success with utility-scale solar projects, rather than wind schemes. This is mainly because wind power is not as predictable as sun. We can be more certain when the sun is going to shine than when the wind will blow!
Even so, we are confident that more developers and investors in the wind sector will look at co-located solutions in the coming years.
For one thing, adding storage to an existing solar or wind farm saves costs for investors and developers. According to research published by Wood Mackenzie last month, co-location cuts engineering, procurement and construction bills; the cost of using hardware to prepare sites; and the price of commissioning.
Adding all of these up, this research said developers would save up to 15% of total system costs by co-locating storage facilities where an infrastructure for a wind farm is already in place, rather than building a storage facility on a separate site.
It is also worth noting that there are different types of co-located projects.
In March, UK grid operator National Grid published a short document on guidelines and processes to co-locate wind and solar power plants with storage, and it distinguished two different types of co-location.
The types of co-location
The report identifies projects connected in parallel, where the generation and energy storage system have separate connections to the transmission network; and consolidated connections, where the energy storage sits behind the connection for an existing generation assets.
This latter option is the case when a storage project is added to the wind or solar project after they had already been built.
Projects connected in parallel are also set to be more cost-effective than consolidated connections as the planning process would be smoother and they would also cut labour costs by combining the projects since the development stage.
In addition, adding storage capacity to existing projects can present challenges. These include land and planning permissions, which would need to be adapted to accommodate the presence of a battery storage facility, and enhancements to the existing grid connection. These are important considerations for project owners looking at the profitability of their projects, but neither is insurmountable.
Wind-and-storage projects are set to become more common: as the total share of wind power on the grid increases, so it does the need for energy storage.
But with storage in its infancy in terms of how it is perceived by investors in the wind industry, and the number of wind-and-storage projects still limited, regulators and developers have yet to overcome many of the hurdles that the development and construction of these projects may present.
Still, the energy storage sector is set to rapidly gain momentum around the world. In a report published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance last month, the global energy storage market is forecast to grow sixfold, to 125GW, by 2030 compared to 2016 levels, and attract a whopping $103bn of investment.
Co-location would be key for making wind-and-storage projects secure a piece of that growth and investment.