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Grid-scale battery storage –The view from Europe

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South Australia was a wake-up call for Australia. It woke us all up to the fact that high levels of renewable penetration need some new thinking. In our view, despite the substantial costs of the blackouts, its lucky it happened when it did because South Australia is a global pioneer. And where South Australia goes today the world and the rest of Australia will soon follow.

In 2014 Marek Kubik, wrote an article for “The Conversation” titled “Relying on renewables need not mean dealing with blackouts”.  Marek is now an “Energy Storage Market Analyst” with AES overseeing the development and coordination of Advancion Energy Storage sales and project proposals for AES clients across Europe, Middle East and Africa. He is also Visiting Fellow at the University of Reading and amongst his many achievements was for 3 years Branch President of “Engineers Without Borders UK” leading an award-winning international development project working with an Indian NGO. Is there anyone better placed to discuss renewables penetration and lithium storage with? AES has a market cap of US 7.7 bn, around US$3.8 bn of EBITDA (down from a peak of $5 bn in 2011)  and about 21,000 employees. The share price is more or less the same as in 2012.

Hidden beneath the bonnet of AES’s conventional power plant and utility is the world’s largest installed fleet of grid storage. This product trades under the “Advancion” brand and as Marek points out is winning orders all over the world. Advancion’s specific technology is based around a nodal architecture where every 80Kw or so of battery has its own inverter.  In this way mass market manufacturing technologies of scale are just as available to AES as they are to the EV battery and AES can get as many inverters as it needs when it wants them.

Lithium and flow Deployments already total 1.3 GW

We’ve had a previous look at the North American storage market, but “thinking global” we accessed the EIA’s global storage data base for storage size projects 10 MW or larger that are either in operation or under construction. It turns out, not surprising when you really think about it, that South Korea is second only to the USA.

Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 4.02.35 PM

The main point of the chart is its increasingly difficult to see utility-scale lithium based storage as a novelty. Its moving out of the fringes and towards the main stage.

In this podcast we discuss for 49 minutes:

– A comparison between Ireland and South Australia renewable penetration and issues arising. Ireland has about 27 TWh of energy demand compared to South Australia at 12.5 and Ireland has a bit over 20% of energy supplied by wind compared to South Australia at 37%. In Ireland wind is constrained off at 50-55% of supply. That of course doesn’t happen in South Australia.

– The 10MW Kilroot “Advancion” deployment in Ireland now operational for 11 months. How its performing and what the learnings are.

– The fact that AES’s deployments show that for frequency response purposes 100 MW of lithium storage, at least in Ireland, is equivalent to maybe 1500 MW of thermal power and can deal with both over and under frequency events with equal ease. See Alikhanzadeh, A., Best, R., Morrow, D., Kubik, M., Brogan, P. Primary Frequency Response from Transmission-Connected Battery Energy Storage System. IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery, October 2016 [Under Review]

– The fact that storage, and the expectation is its lithium based, won all of the recent UK National Grid 200 MW Enhanced Frequency Response tender clearly outperforming gas-fired solutions.

– The ability of various lithium storage suppliers to get 94 MW of storage approved in 126 days to replace gas generation in response to the Alison Canyon gas field leak in the USA. AES is deploying 37.5 MW/4 hours of that storage and its deployments will be operational by January 2017, having received the order in just Mid-August 2016.

– The relative ability of coal and gas plants to ramp up and down in response to say a PV “duck curve” and what can be done to improve the thermal efficiency of coal plants during the ramp up and ramp down phase. I learned quite a bit from this segment of the conversation.

– That manufacturers of lithium batteries have quite a lot of warranty responsibility and also apparently a responsibility for disposal of batteries at the end of life.

– A discussion of factors driving economics of scale in utility-scale battery deployments.

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