Storage unlocks the flexibility within our future energy needs

Energy networks are finally moving from century-old models were the power was flowing from centralized sources, based on the conventional generation of coal, oil and gas to the load centres and grids, based more on renewables.

Today and in the future, a new generation is spreading out across the energy networks, based on renewable sources of wind and solar and through innovative technology, into a more decentralized, distributed generation that the end-user can influence and control.

New solutions of Microgrids, energy storage solutions, and even the ability to localize renewable power is changing the energy supply business. In many ways, the end-user or final consumer is establishing control over their energy needs; they need to take out the volatility in energy supplies and build resilience into their system. They are looking for solutions that optimize their power demand, consumption, pricing, and overall management of their energy resources.

In a world increasingly reliant on data, on the use of digital devices, supporting distributed networks, and in our dependencies, on the internet, we rely on a high level of energy security. Outages can impact data centres, vital support services and any “break in service” is often costing millions in claims, bad-will, and lost business.

We all increasingly feeling this need to determine our energy destiny. We are entering a rechargeable world in our energy options, and energy storage is becoming central to this.

Two distinct and different markets for storage are emerging

The two markets are stationary storage and electric vehicles. Stationary storage is being deployed throughout the grid or can offer the utility the flexibility in scale for energy shifting (excess solar and wind generation). You can manage peak spike demand in power systems, and you can provide services that customers increasingly want, to store energy, and to be able to deploy this at their own energy demand needs.

A growing market of stationary storage solutions will be installed behind-the-meter by households and businesses. These are small-scale battery systems deployed alongside PV (rooftops), for example, where homeowners can improve installed payoffs for greater self-consumption, extracting more value than PV alone.

The other need for storage will be when E-mobility finally happens at scale, as this will need massive deployment of charging infrastructure- physical grid upgrades and stationary battery storage.

Presently, there is increased concern that power demand will exceed available grid capacity for E-mobility vehicle to grid. While energy networks continue to be upgraded, stationary battery storage becomes the best alternative option for flexibility and meeting demand at critical charging times.

Understanding the increasing value of storage

When you can store your energy, you can increase your capacity for stability and management within your designed energy system. Calling on installed storage gives you access to improved energy reliability, a higher level of efficiency in managing your energy-consuming assets, and ensure the sustainability of your business or environment. You become increasingly less dependent on others and can determine your energy mix and optimization.

Having greater control over your energy management allows you to control energy costs more effectively, you have critical power when needed, you can enhance existing energy designs and capabilities to enable you to extend your storage needs as and where they are required.

Energy battery storage is increasingly allowing storage options in their utility and flexibility. They are rapidly becoming the planner’s “go-to solution” as they give multiple options to manage energy.

Storage offers options for holding energy reserves, time-shifting, supply firming, system stability for each segment of consumer/ prosumer, decentralized generation, distributed grid options, variable generation solutions for wind and solar, transmission grid substitution, and conventional power support.

Mostly today and in the foreseeable future, Lithium-ion batteries make up most of today’s energy storage technology. Today, battery designs last two to four hours, but the energy and power density of Li-ion technologies continue to mature and scale for further capacity in the future.

We have increasing utility-scale battery storage capacity. Battery prices have been dropping, and they are reaching the point where renewables (wind and solar), combined with storage are becoming competitive with traditional energy sources powered by natural gas and become ideal to be switched on during times of high electricity demand

Energy Storage, paired with solar or wind, offers a real on-site value proposition.

Storage helps to integrate variable renewable energy resources (VRE). It is this combination of wind, solar, plus storage that is disrupting the commodity cycle in the future. It is this combination that allows companies to embrace clean, low-cost, renewable energy generation, replace or supplement existing baseload generation, hold and store this VRE for consistent energy use.

Storage also offers the essential and immediate back-up of power supply at times of catastrophic system failures, at the facility or within the grid. Resilience in energy is so critical; it gives growing security and storage solutions provide part of this stability.

Energy storage becomes an exciting business prospect

We are seeing a greater awakening of both corporate and end customers, who are recognizing that there are potential business opportunities as active energy buyers, seeking to play a more active role in the energy chain. Energy management is knowing how, when, and where energy is coming from and managing the patterns of consumption effectively.

The realization that by combining new energy technologies, such as the value of microgrids, having onsite solar or wind with software-enabled and data awareness, buyers recognize they have energy management in their hands.

Software helps better manage and visualize their power needs to the point that the local generation of energy can also offer potential excess for energy arbitrage where discharging electricity back to the grid provides a valuable new business model.

This ability to return energy is disrupting past conventional electricity generation, giving power energy options in the “hands” of the final consumer of energy.

Storage is changing the energy game.

Storage is a vital part of managing energy.  Storage helps satisfy instantaneous demand as it is helping to smooth out discrepancies between generation and load. Energy storage is well suited to provide such ancillary services.

Eventually, as costs continue to fall of storage, it could move beyond that role, providing more and more alternative options of energy solutions, allowing for a viable energy option on-site that you, as the consumer of electricity, can control.

Today Storage gives us all a very different perspective and range of options.

We see energy storage technologies’ performance is improving with new solutions and costs continually going down. Applying new applications, exploring new services and market opportunities gives confidence that storage options are increasingly safer and reliable to build into energy longer-tern solutions. We are seeing a rising competitive market where a dedicated storage focus is giving increased opportunities. The role of storage has been helped by the improvements in regulations; the more public-private collaborations are fueling the increased uptake on energy storage and uptake for providing real options and flexibility in design energy delivery and reliability.

All aspects of the energy system are benefiting.

Generation from emergency ‘black start,’ support to conventional generation, build distributed generation flexibility, and manage disturbances and curtailment issues in transmission, the frequency control, the ability to defer investment costs, and support infrastructure stability. In energy distribution, storage gives more dynamic voltage control, contingency options, smoothing out power quality, reducing upstream disturbances, and having reactive power compensation. Finally, at the consumption point, the end-user peak shaving, time-of-use, continuity of power supply, and power management closer to end-use continue to benefit from deploying storage solutions.

Recent estimates are predicting Energy Storage deployment will increase to the 7x factor over the next few years to build reliance and flexibility into the networks for energy security.

Storage certainly offers the potential to unlock your energy future.

  • Updated on 26 Sept 2020

Author: @paul4innovating

A transition advocate for innovation, ecosystems, and digitalization for the energy and IIoT systems

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