Webinar’s solar-plus-battery secrets

One of the slides from the Ata Renewables presentation in last week's webinar. Pic: Ata Renewables.

One of the slides from the Ata Renewables presentation in last week’s webinar. Pic: Ata Renewables.

By Jason Deign

Combining battery storage with solar generation is already cheaper than using diesel in most microgrids, said experts at an Energy Storage Report webinar last week.

“As the key applications, we see islanded grids or microgrids, [where] PV and batteries are becoming cost-competitive with diesel,” confirmed Valts Grintals from Delta Energy & Environment in the event organised alongside Ata Insights.

A case in point is France, where interest in solar plus storage is highest in islands and “non-interconnected zones,” where around 60% of PV projects so far have been installed with batteries, Grintals said.

This interest is set to grow following the launch of a tender last year for almost 52MW more of island-based solar capacity, spread across 33 projects. “We expect to see more storage coming into these projects,” said Grintals.

“In France, PV and storage is a great solution to stabilise the grid [and] help enable microgrid use, and it is already cost competitive.”
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Azores project key for island microgrid credibility

Gorona del Viento: poor performance means other island microgrids are under scrutiny. Photo: www.animam.photography.

Gorona del Viento: poor performance means other island storage projects are under scrutiny. Photo: www.animam.photography.

By Jason Deign

A project on Graciosa, Azores, has become key for the credibility of island-based storage following concerns over another plant more than 1,500km away.

The Younicos project on Graciosa is set to go live within weeks amid speculation that another attempt to power an island off renewables, in El Hierro, Canary Islands, has failed to meet expectations.

El Hierro’s Gorona del Viento plant, which combines an 11.5MW wind farm with a pumped hydro storage system, was launched with much fanfare in 2014. Its initial aim was to replace 80% of diesel generation needed for the island grid.

Last month, the plant operator revealed the EUR€82m Gorona del Viento had allowed El Hierro to run continuously off nothing but renewable energy for 55 hours.

And last week Gorona del Viento said the plant supplied 67% of the island’s power throughout July and had set a new record of 76 hours with 100% renewable production.
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Islands show how energy transition works

Island renewable energy projects with battery storage, like the Younicos Graciosa Island in the Azores project, could be the model for energy storage in Europe, says Clemens Triebel. Photo: Energy Storage Europe

Island renewable energy projects with battery storage, like the Younicos Graciosa Island in the Azores project, could be the model for energy storage in Europe, says Clemens Triebel. Photo credit: Energy Storage Europe

By Jason Deign

Islands converting power supplies from diesel to renewables could be role models for the global transition to renewable energy, according to Younicos co-founder Clemens Triebel.

“If we’re aiming for a high percentage of solar and wind energy, the expansion of renewables has to be matched with sufficient storage capacity from the start,” said Triebel in an Energy Storage Europe press release.

In contrast, said Triebel, the German electricity system is still discriminating against energy storage in favour of conventional power plants.

“We still produce power according to a 19th century paradigm which holds that energy is best produced by large generators that rotate constantly,” he commented.

“If we continue to cling to this notion, the grid will continue to be taken up by coal, gas and nuclear, blocking space for solar and wind energy more and more frequently.”
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Unleashing value in energy storage management systems

Advances in battery management systems and software are proving that the key to cost-effective energy storage might not be what you use… but how you use it. Photo credit: Greensmith Energy Management Systems

Recent advances in battery management systems and software could dramatically reduce the cost of energy storage. Photo credit: Greensmith Energy Management Systems

Recent battery management system advances are increasingly proving that the key to cost-effective energy storage might not be what you use… but how you use it.

Last year, for example, Energy Storage Report unveiled news of a French start-up called Enerstone, which is commercialising an active battery management system that can extend the lifespan of batteries by up to 30%.

The system monitors the health of each cell and redistributes loads so that “weaker ones work less than stronger ones, to extend the battery life to the benefit of the user,” explained Enerstone’s president and co-founder Alexander Chureau.

This month, meanwhile, a senior executive at Greensmith unveiled that its energy storage management systems had made it possible for lithium-ion batteries to beat lead-acid not just on performance but also on cost.

In one particular project, “the deployment of lithium-ion was half the price of lead-acid over the lifetime of the system, and it’s entirely due to software,” Leesa Lee, senior vice president, product management and marketing, told Energy Storage Report.
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Why energy storage is (not) a dead-end industry

Energy storage industry experts respond to the damning report on energy return on investment from IFK Berlin. Photo credit: Airlight Energy, CSP thermal energy storage

Energy storage industry experts respond to the IFK Berlin report on energy return on investment (EROI) for renewable energy. Photo: Airlight Energy, CSP thermal energy storage

Is investment in energy storage worth the effort? Didn’t we find out last week that our industry is going nowhere because of the fundamental constraint of its energy return on investment (EROI)? Perhaps we had better take another look, just to be on the safe side.

First off: let’s not panic. While EROI studies point to a possibly critical problem in relying too heavily on energy storage for renewable power generation, the effects, if real, are presumably only likely to kick in at relatively high levels of penetration.

We are a long way off that yet. Meanwhile, there is the fact that the science around EROI, while apparently robust, is still relatively immature and clearly evolving, as indeed are the technologies and manufacturing processes being described.

This potentially implies uncertainty around current EROI assertions and predictions.

Certainly, most sector professionals consulted by Energy Storage Report had few qualms about dismissing the research: “BS” and “hokum” were among the terms used by knowledgeable industry insiders.

Some observers question the impartiality of parts of the research to date.
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When batteries beat traditional power

The largest commercial battery storage system in Europe, commissioned by WEMAG in Schwerin, Germany, is proving that battery energy storage can beat traditional power for grid frequency regulation. Photo credit: Younicos

The largest commercial battery storage system in Europe, commissioned by WEMAG in Schwerin, Germany, is showing that battery energy storage can beat traditional power for grid frequency regulation. Photo credit: Younicos

Battery storage is usually seen as being a handy adjunct to help renewable energy square up to traditional power plants. But on frequency regulation, at least, it seems batteries may actually be better than the generation sources they are helping to supplant.

That, at least, is the consensus emerging from early operating experience at Europe’s largest commercial battery power plant, the 5MWh lithium-ion facility that WEMAG has commissioned from Younicos in Schwerin, Germany.

“Whereas coal-fired and other thermal plants typically take up to 30 seconds to adjust production up or down, and then just hit the neighbourhood of where they are supposed to be, batteries react within milliseconds,” explains Philip Hiersemenzel of Younicos.

The fact that batteries might beat traditional power plants for frequency regulation has long been touted as a big selling point for battery storage and has already helped sell projects in the US.

Now the performance of WEMAG’s installation is strengthening that business case.
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Modelling the future of energy storage in Europe

Younicos, the german battery manufacturer, shares its modelling results for the future of energy storage in Europe.

Younicos, the german renewable energy company, shares its modelling results for the future of energy storage in Europe. Photo credit: Younicos

Back at the beginning of this month we published an article on European energy policy that we hoped would stimulate some debate within the energy storage industry. We were not disappointed. Within hours of the newsletter hitting our subscribers’ inboxes, we had a forthright response from Philip Hiersemenzel, spokesperson for German renewable energy company Younicos.

Exporting grid instability

Despite being a self-confessed “big fan” of Energy Storage Report, Hiersemenzel was less than happy about what he saw as accepting at face value figures given by Benedict De Meulemeester, chief executive of the energy consultancy E&C.

These stated that, despite dire predictions of disruption of the grid from an ever-increasing supply of renewables, Germany’s grid actually still had one of the lowest outage rates in the world.
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Britain boasts the biggest battery

Britain is a small island full of big surprises, not least when it comes to renewable energy. Pursuing a policy that some would call pluralistic, others opportunistic and some incoherent, the current administration has embraced fracking a week after opening Europe’s biggest offshore wind farm. Now comes another surprise at an electricity substation at Leighton Buzzard, in the county of Bedfordshire.
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