How to store solar energy and what systems should a company invest in?
The power generated by renewables such as solar energy is intermittent, raising questions about the best form of storage system, so as to make the best use of it.
Published on Wednesday, 9 September 2020
Energy storage is a key element in the transition that has engulfed the power sector in recent years and which still has much further to run. The big question is how to do it in a cost-effective way.
As the world seeks to overcome its addiction to fossil fuels, the process that is unfolding by its very nature largely depends on energy sources that are intermittent as well as renewable. These are mainly wind and solar.
By 2050, almost 50% of global installed generation capacity is expected to come from renewables. That compares with their 2019 share of almost 27%, according to the International Energy Agency.
The energy transition offers commercial and industrial companies several different ways to play their part in reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change at the same time as they exploit new revenue streams.
These opportunities also protect businesses from volatile energy costs. The falling cost and increasing efficiency of photovoltaic panels has made solar energy the preferred method of generating renewable power for many people, raising the question of how to store solar energy.
Distributed generation and solar battery storage system
In the commercial and industrial world, solar power storage is coming to the fore as an important part of another piece of the transition puzzle. This is distributed generation, which is a cornerstone of the transition and one of those cutting edge technologies that are fast changing the way power is generated, stored and consumed.
Distributed generation typically means assets held at customer facilities that may feed power generated by wind or solar energy into the grid. These bring with them two main challenges: the changeability previously noted and the difficulty of controlling output power.
Solar panel battery storage offers a solution to these issues by warehousing power when it is abundant and cheap and releasing it when energy is scarce or expensive, or where solar power is concerned, after sundown.
Storage can also smooth supplies to the grid from on-site generation assets such as arrays of solar panels, helping insulate it from the risk of power surges. This is important from the grid operator’s point of view because it helps protect the network.
Why become an industrial prosumer?
The transition is turning energy consumers into producers, creating so-called prosumers, part of the decentralized system that is evolving and able to benefit from it.
The process offers many advantages, as outlined by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Unido: “Industrial prosumers will not only experience reduced manufacturing costs due to minimal or near-zero energy prices, but may be able to sell the excess energy generated to the nearby community or into the grid.”
“Front of the meter” and “behind the meter” systems: what’s the difference?
In 2018, the market for storage systems totalled about 9 GW, with the lion’s share – 5.6 GW – in so-called “front of the meter” systems that typically stand between the consumer and the grid and are captive to the supply of network services.
“Behind the meter” systems are instead internal to the user’s facility and work independently of the grid, although where regulation permits, they may be connected to it and supply it.
These BtM systems accounted for capacity of about 3.4 GW in total, of which 1.5 GW are in the retail and industrial sectors.
Both FtM and BtM areas are expected to grow at a 25% clip, though in general the storage arena is still highly fragmented, with the 10 largest local markets accounting for about 75% of the global marketplace.
Enel X energy storage systems
Solar energy storagesystems deliver effective cost control as well as energy management solutions that can be integrated into the strategic management of companies’ exposure to the grid.
At Enel X we have a long history in solar power and we want to use it to help revolutionize the way in which the sun’s energy is harnessed and consumed.
Our focus is on lithium-ion batteries, which are the most mainstream and cost-effective solutions. They are also flexible because they are scalable to take account of customers’ changing needs.
Our storage systems can also be managed through our proprietary DER.OS platform, which can aggregate management of multiple facilities, creating a solar-powered virtual power station that helps our clients through the transition and which protects the planet at the same time as it saves customers money.