The Role of Battery Storage in Renewable Energy
Battery storage technologies are crucial for accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. They serve as a linchpin, bridging the gap between the supply of green energy and fluctuating electricity demands.
Known as battery energy storage systems (BESS), these devices facilitate the storage of energy generated from renewables like solar and wind, to be subsequently released when there is a surge in electricity demand.
At present, lithium-ion batteries—commonly found in mobile phones and electric vehicles—are the leading storage technology. These batteries are increasingly being utilised in large-scale facilities to help electricity grids maintain a consistent supply of renewable energy. Companies like Viridi Parente are pioneering the use of these systems across industrial, commercial, and residential settings.
The Importance and Benefits of Battery Storage
Battery storage is instrumental in ensuring that homes and businesses have access to green energy, even when environmental conditions are less than ideal—think of days with no sun or wind.
In the UK, which boasts the world’s largest offshore wind capacity, the effective storage and deployment of this renewable energy can increase its value by bolstering production and potentially lowering costs.
Engineers at National Grid and other electricity grids globally are constantly balancing supply with demand. The challenge intensifies as the world moves towards net-zero carbon emissions. While fossil fuel plants have traditionally managed these fluctuations, battery storage facilities are gradually taking over this role.
According to UK government estimates, technologies like battery storage could save the British energy system as much as £40 billion by 2050. This would, in turn, reduce energy bills for consumers.
Prescott Hartshorne, a Director at National Grid Ventures in the US, states, “Storage is pivotal for the further expansion of renewable energy. It plays a vital role in our utility customers’ transition towards more sustainable energy solutions.”
How Do Battery Storage Systems Work?
Far removed from the AA batteries in your kitchen drawer, these advanced energy storage systems can be charged using electricity generated from renewables like solar and wind power.
Sophisticated software algorithms control energy production, while computerised systems determine when to store or release energy to the grid. During times of high demand, energy is released from the storage systems, thus maintaining a stable electricity supply while also keeping costs low.
Though this article focuses on large-scale battery storage, domestic storage systems operate on similar principles.
Emerging Technologies in Renewable Energy Storage
For renewable energy storage to be viable, we need technologies that are cost-effective, long-lasting, and safe.
Lithium-ion batteries were initially developed by a British scientist in the 1970s and have since become the most economically feasible solution. However, various other technologies are under development, including:
- Compressed Air Energy Storage: These systems use excess electricity to compress air in large chambers. When electricity is needed, the compressed air is released and used to generate power.
- Mechanical Gravity Energy Storage: In this setup, energy is used to lift concrete blocks up a tower. When required, the blocks are lowered, generating electricity through the force of gravity.
- Flow Batteries: These batteries operate much like rechargeable fuel cells, with two chemical components dissolved in liquids, separated by a membrane.
As Prescott Hartshorne notes, “The next decade is crucial for energy storage and batteries. It will serve as a testing ground for these and other emerging technologies.”
There you have it—an exhaustive look at battery storage, its importance, and how it promises to revolutionise the future of renewable energy.