Large-Scale Energy Storage Disrupting the Electrical Industry


The latest developments in energy storage promise a greener future for the electrical industry. With more effective and reliable interaction between renewable resources and the grid, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced. Several studies have been conducted by both the private and public sectors to analyze the impact of such technology on the electrical grid. For example, a study released by Texas utility Oncor Electric Delivery Co. highlighted the many benefits of this technology for the grid:

  • Energy storage placement is flexible in that it can be placed in many locations in the grid.
  • A storage battery placed on the distribution system (substation or feeder) can be used to prevent distribution outages.
  • Distributed deployment of storage can shift power consumption away from costly peak-load periods, reducing peak-load growth on distribution feeders and, therefore, deferring some of the ongoing distribution-system investment needs.
  • It can help prevent generation- or demand-side capacity investment.

More research will take place this year following the announcement that Saft (a company involved in the design, development, and manufacture of high-tech batteries used in transport, industry, and defense) has been awarded a megawatt-scale Li-ion (lithium-ion) battery energy-storage contract by Fortum, the Finnish energy company.

A Saft Intensium Max containerized battery system, with a nominal output of 2 MW and 1 MWh, will be installed at Fortum’s Suomenoja power plant (located in Espoo, Finland) as part of the electricity storage pilot project in the Nordic countries (Fig.1). The objective of this pilot project is to research the suitability and optimum usage of batteries used for storing electricity to maintain a power balance in the electricity system.

In addition, the research will explore new opportunities offered by electricity storage and by the flexible intermediate storage of electricity. The capacity of this power plant will be offered to the national grid company Fingrid to maintain a continuous power balance in the electricity system.

 “Li-ion batteries provide good cycle life and great energy density. For this project specifically, Saft will use lithium nickel cobalt aluminum Li-ion batteries (commonly named NAC Li-ion),” said Saft’s grid product and marketing manager, Michael Lippert, in a phone interview. Besides highlighting the benefits of Li-ion batteries, he also pointed out the importance of the outcomes of this pilot project because it will help to find out how large-scale energy storage benefits the grid and how Li-ion batteries perform at such high scale.

As the number of energy storage projects increases globally, it is worth mentioning one of the American finalists for the 2015 Project of the Year Awards announced by Renewable Energy World: The Grand Ridge Energy Storage Project at Invenergy’s Beech Ridge Energy Center (Fig. 2).  The Grand Ridge Energy Storage Project is a 31.5-MW lithium-ion battery system in operation located in Marseilles, Ill. The project has had great success helping grid operator PJM balance the supply and demand using BYD’s proprietary lithium-ion iron-phosphate battery chemistry.

According to market-research firm IHS, the energy storage market is set to “explode” to an annual installation size of 6 gigawatts (GW) in 2017 and over 40 GW by 2022—from an initial base of only 0.34 GW installed in 2012 and 2013. Energy companies are investing in energy storage because it can help them meet future energy needs and at the same time encourage the use of renewable sources reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 9

on Jun 8, 2016

That these systems are technically feasible is not news.

Whether or not these systems are economically feasible or useful is the question.

Cost per watt-hour?

on Jun 9, 2016

CM99 has asked the critical question: Does thisnapproach make economic sense. We can do almost anything, for some price. But is it cost effective, and is the production yield acceptable? Those two problems kill a whole lot of interesting ideas.

on Jun 9, 2016

If a system like this can smooth out peak demand and remove the need to build another generation plant, I figure the economics are good.

on Jun 13, 2016

Given that US consumption is around 4,000 TWh and generating capacity is around 1,000 GW, calling a 2 MW/1 MWhr battery "large scale" is a bit of stretch (by about 4 orders of magnitude). Even 40 GW would only be .4% of US capacity.
It's way too early to know whether this particular technology can scale sufficiently to make any significant economic impact to the US electric industry.

on Jun 13, 2016

Hey, we've got to start somewhere. Even if it doesn't make economic sense yet, we hope it will someday. We really don't know how to proceed with renewables if we can't store energy. My guess is the industry will build and replace battery systems at a pretty fast rate as technology improves. Do they have a good disposal/recycling plan? If so I'd like to learn about that.

on Jun 15, 2016

Has anyone looked at the pollution caused by the manufacturing of these batteries?

on Jul 23, 2016

good job guys, thanks for the useful information

on Nov 8, 2016

Sorry, no such thing as a greenhouse gas. Basic physics is being ignored again.There will be a niche market for all of this alternative energy technology in remote locations, but it currently cannot compete economically with modern cheap clean coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear etc. The only reason people are working on it at all right now is government subsidies.

on Mar 11, 2017

Until someone invents the Shipstone, described by Robert A. Heinlein in his science fiction stories, the only form of practical energy storage for electricity is pumped hydroelectric energy storage . The current installed capacity, worldwide, is only 168 GW. That's a start, but nowhere near enough to implement a global energy supply based on renewable energy resources. Looks like King Coal will be ruling power generation for at least the rest of this century, or until the planet melts from global climate change.

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