During last year’s UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland countries were asked to offer ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century. Andrew Crossman (right), director at Infinite looks at the possibility of hybrid systems becoming a realistic solution to achieving net zero goals.
Investing in renewables
Encouraging investment in renewables was identified during COP26 as an achievable target. Indeed, this is something that is already afoot, with companies throughout the UK taking advantage of the many programmes and incentives available.
One such project is the Generation Storage, Consumption, Supply (GSCS) programme offering business communities in Wales cost effective and greener electricity. Developed and managed by Infinite and funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Infinite Renewable Group’s funding partner Albion Community Power, the centres are made up of a range of integrated renewable and low carbon generation technologies.
Two of the seven microgrid projects are already underway at large manufacturing locations: one at the GS Yuasa battery factory in Ebbw Vale; the other at the Royal Mint. Both are ideal candidates for an integrated energy and microgrid development.
Such is the demand/need for the energy centre model, there are plans to build several more, independently of government support and discussions are taking place with interested parties who are desperate for real solutions to help achieve their net zero goals.
It goes without saying, microgrids are a big step in the decentralisation of energy distribution; accelerating pressures on the already fragile grid network mean that decentralised distribution of energy is essential rather than optional. As grid demand increases due to the electrification of many aspects of our daily lives, local energy centres that can generate energy from renewable and low carbon sources to reduce the grid load will play an important part in successfully delivering net zero ambitions, resulting in the local renewable energy microgrids being the primary power source, with the grid as the back-up.
Taking a step back, it is obvious the transition to a net-zero carbon economy requires electricity generation to move away from the unabated use of fossil fuels, but in doing so, the management of energy becomes increasingly complex. Coal, oil and gas can be mined, then stored indefinitely before being used to generate electricity to match demand. This totally controllable energy release is termed dispatchable generation.
New methods of energy storage
Most zero carbon sources are not dispatchable and are intermittent, so must be harvested when available without respect to demand. To successfully develop local energy centres and manage this unpredictable renewable power source, new methods are needed to balance the electricity supply with demand and create renewable and dispatchable generation.
Batteries are one of the leading technologies underpinning this expanding market and enabling the deployment of renewable energy centres. Batteries are essential to the future of energy storage and energy storage systems (ESS) are critical to the design and operation of a renewable microgrid, helping to turn renewable generation into dispatchable energy. The question is what battery technology provides the best ESS option?
Which battery is best?
Each energy centre needs to address the specific energy requirements of the community it supplies, providing multiple benefits across a range of operating periods. The ESS within each energy centre facilitates the power management to deliver the range of benefits required. Lithium-ion and lead-acid are proven individual battery technologies with very different characteristics and are used independently for specific storage applications.
Combining the fast response of lithium-ion with the endurance of lead-acid can work in a complementary way to provide economical and sustainable solutions for numerous storage services from the same system— a perfect combination for an energy centre.
Combining industry and academia
To develop the dual chemistry ESS, Infinite Renewables partnered with GS Yuasa, the University of Sheffield and Innovate UK to develop a hybrid platform. ADEPT (Advanced multi-Energy management and oPTimisation time shifting platform) was constructed at the GS Yuasa battery manufacturing facility on the Rassau Industrial Estate in Ebbw Vale, Wales.
ADEPT is a completely containerised solution that can be integrated rapidly into any renewable energy micro-grid configuration, avoiding the need for internal space.
The ADEPT platform features two GS Yuasa battery systems: a 75kWh lithium-ion battery system of 36 GS Yuasa LIM50 modules alongside a 250 kWh Valve Regulated Lead Acid battery system of 240 Yuasa SLR500 cells. The two systems are connected to a 100Kw bi-direction power conversion unit as well as full monitoring and battery management systems.
The dual chemistry battery system stores the renewable generation, which is then released under the control of the ADEPT micro-grid manager, to provide optimum commercial benefit from demand management services. This balances the unstable, varied nature of renewable production and provides optimum energy security.
ADEPT is the hub of a smart micro grid that manages energy generators and loads at a local level to stabilise their impact on the national electricity grid. The dual chemistry system combines the fast response of lithium-ion with the endurance of lead-acid batteries under a single battery control system.
Using both battery types provides the best of both worlds, and is a more economical and sustainable solution than using lithium alone.
The project delivered on all set objectives, including performance and cost and is testament to the importance of link ups between industry and universities.
Those objectives were:
- Provide multi-control solutions— combining different generation outputs, balancing the joint generation capacities to supply on-site demand and satisfying grid connection parameters
- Balancing of grid fault levels— enabling renewable energy supply when the grid is at capacity at certain periods and enabling balancing of grid fault levels by increasing/decreasing consumption/generation
- Distribution of power to multiple consumers— using battery storage to isolate individual consumers and allow stand-alone operation based on the available renewable energy and storage capacity
- Grid stability services— as renewable energy slowly replaces conventional power, the system inertia is expected to drop by 70% in 20 years confirming a need for new technologies to enhance the system strength and support of the grid.
- Introduce virtual inertia for grid support
- Include self-protecting properties under abnormal or faulty grid conditions to avoid disconnections
- Enable real-time control of generation supply/demand
- Minimise the need of communication among Distributed Energy Resources (DERs).
- Support seamless integration of DERs and the grid leading to a 25% reduction in unit disconnections
Further EU industrial and research initiatives, such as the European Battery Alliance, Batteries Europe, Batteries 2030+ or IPCEI’s, demonstrate how batteries can work together to reach the energy demands. However, it remains important to share the message that a wide array of energy storage and battery technologies are needed to address the flexibility requirements and support the energy transition and the EU green goals, including lead batteries.
Batteries are essential to the future of energy storage and with each storage application needing specific requirements, it is heartening to see highly promising research and development in next generation battery technology.
According to a joint study, published in 2020 by the International Energy Agency and European Patent Office, patenting activity in batteries and other electricity storage technologies grew at an average annual rate of 14% worldwide between 2005 and 2018.
This is four times faster than the average of all technology fields. The 2019 report from the Global Battery Alliance suggested batteries could enable 30% of the required reductions in carbon emissions in the transport and power sectors and provide access to electricity to 600 million people who have no access.
Significant progress is also being made to store energy at affordable prices and if large manufacturing plants are to consider renewable energy, affordability is key. Energy storage underpins a clean energy future and is an essential component of renewable energy centres.
If policy makers want to solve the problems of climate change and pollution, while moving from a linear to a circular economy, then industries will need a proper deployment of battery technologies and energy storage.
Battery manufacturers and innovators are driving the transition process but the continued investment and support from government as well as a commitment from institutional investors, is essential to accelerate deployment and keep the ambitions of COP26 alive.