Battery technology used as energy storage against climate change and how did Tesla affect the market.
Through the massive transition that is happening from power plants to renewable energy, the electricity system operators are loosing their ability to control the energy being inserted into the electricity grid. This ability to control the amount of energy entering the electricity system and the energy taken out of the system has been the reason we have uninterrupted electricity at all times. System operators were always able to predict the energy demand required by the consumers and then inject into the system the exact amount of energy required by them to keep the system uninterrupted. Minor changes in demand of energy without the appropriate adjustments to the energy produced might result in power outages. However, because renewables are unpredictable in some ways the job of system operators is becoming harder and harder and they are looking for solutions to increase the flexibility of these renewables. Battery technology is a great solution for that.
Battery technology has been used since the 1800s, however, nobody has used them in the electricity sector until the past few years. The reason that people did not use them was the high cost that came with the scalability of battery technology, the very low efficiency in larges scale projects, and the extremely low lifecycles that batteries had. As it was mentioned also in the Solar energy article for a technology to improve and for the price of it to drop at commercial viable levels, massive investments need to be done on that specific technology. For Li-ion batteries, Tesla was responsible for the investment boost that gave this technology the scalability through their heavy investments in battery technology for their electric vehicles. Their technology through the acquisition of SolarCity (one of the large solar companies in the US) allowed them to move their battery technology to the electricity sector and combine solar with battery technology.
To look at more in detail this technology and try to find the potential of it in the future and the advantages and disadvantages of this technology in Cyprus, we need to take a look at some key indicators regarding Li-Ion batteries.
Key economic indicators: A few of those indicators used in the energy sector are the Capital Expenditure (€/kW) or CAPEX, which is the cost of the initial investment, the Fixed and Variable cost (€/kWh) through the years, and the most important one is the Levelized Cost of Energy (€/kWh) of the technology or LCOE, which is the cost of each electricity per unit or kWh through the years (LCOE = Lifetime costs/energy produced). The LCOE takes into account both the CAPEX and the fixed and variable cost of energy.
Looking at one of these important indicator the LCOE of the battery technology investigated by Bloomberg from 2013 until 2018, the LCOE price of battery storage technology has dropped around 62% until 2018 and prices continued to fall reaching, based on Lazard, an average LCOE of 0.12-0.20€/kWh. by 2020. An even further reduction of the LCOE of another 30% is expected to happen in the next 5 years, that will make battery storage cheaper than both wind and solar in some cases.
These low prices can reach even lower levels by developing a hybrid project combining this battery technology with large scale Solar Farms.
In Cyprus, Solar Farms have been an extremely popular technology used in the electricity sector, however, the country has currently reached a limit. Due to the overwhelming demand for licenses to build Solar farms in Cyprus, governmental authorities are no longer issuing new licenses on stand-alone Solar. The veto for new licenses was given by the system operator. He stated that if all the solar farms licensed until now will be building, the system will have big issues and even power outages because of the lag of controllability of the system described above and the flexibility issues described in our previous article.
A potential solution being looked at today in Cyprus and is currently implemented in many countries is the use of Li-ion batteries with Solar. The energy solution that comes with Li-Ion batteries is a 2 hour or a 4-hour storage system that works best as energy shifting devices that charge with cheap solar energy or in some cases excess energy and discharge during peak hours. This effect can be viewed on the graph below with an average Load curve of Cyprus with the integration of 750MW of Solar combined with a 170MW of 4 hour Li-Ion battery energy system in 2030. Numbers used are based on governmental projection for 2030.
As you can see from the graph, it is obvious that the battery is being used to reduce the ramp rate that was one of the issues that the "duck curve" has created and shifts the energy from the solar to the night peak.
Energy shifting is not the only useful aspect of battery storage solutions. In different countries currently, batteries are being used in different ways, and because of the versatility of the product energy storage solutions have a lot of potentials.
Some of these potentials are:
Energy arbitrage (Energy shifting)
Frequency Regulation (preventing small fluctuation of energy)
Resource Adequacy (Available capacity to meet peak demand at any time)
Transmission and/or Distribution Deferral (Avoid building electricity lines)
The full potential of battery technology has still not been used because there are any economic incentives for all the above potentials. However, with the passing of time and the maturing of the technology, the usability of battery storage will most certainly increase.
The combination of renewables and batteries will help in a way our transition to a zero-carbon future, it will not be the only solution that will be used but for our current and short-term future needs, but I am confident that it will be one of them.
Climate change and going carbon neutral is a problem that requires multiple solutions, there are no silver bullets to it, therefore technological advancements in multiple sectors is necessary.
By Sotiris Kyprianou
Sotiris is an energy analyst that dedicated his career to the energy sector with degrees in engineering and management in the sector with specialization in renewable energies, energy storage, and energy modeling.