The Balancing Act

The Balancing Act

A new study from battery developers Eaton in partnership with the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that the cost of generating energy from wind and solar in the UK is expected to halve by 2040 which in turn is expected to lead to more opportunities for energy storage.

The study confirmed that the intermittency of wind and solar energy generation will create extremely varied outputs. This is likely to produce periods when output exceeds demand and also when demand outstrips generation levels.

The study does state that while battery storage is a viable solution to short-term volatility issues it is not well suited to providing long term back-up of weeks or months. To meet these longer-term gaps hydro, interconnectors and gas generation are the only solutions that can ease flexibility economically. Other technologies such as hydrogen storage would require significant cost reductions by 2040.

Speaking at the launch of the study report BNEF’s head of global analysis Albert Cheung said: “This study highlights a seismic shift in how power systems will operate in future. As wind and solar become the cheapest options for power generation, the race is on to develop and deploy the flexible resources that will complement them.”

This new study follows on from the BNEF New Energy Outlook report published in June which stated that renewable energy generation will account for approximately 75% of the projected $10 trillion of global investment in energy technologies by 2040.

The expected back-up capacity is expected to remain relatively flat up to 2040 with current levels being approximately 70GW. This could be balanced via dispatchable resources, generation, storage, flexibility and interconnectors. In the highest output months, the UK could source 70% of its needs from wind and solar and some associations claim that bioenergy could be used to provide the remaining baseload.

Another solution could be found in the Nordic countries where a larger percentage of the energy generation and storage is produced and maintained via hydro-power. While the Nordic countries are expected to produce 67% of their energy in generated by hydro by 2040 the figure in the UK is currently projected to be much lower leading to claims that more hydro generation and hydro storage options are required.

“Massive increases in future renewable power generation mean that industry and government must start planning now to ensure low-carbon, cost-effective ways of balancing demand and supply,” the REA’s chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said.

“We believe that there is a role for fuelled renewable technologies such as bioenergy and energy from waste to provide the complementary baseload generation that will be required, to avoid the need for carbon intensive generation at all.”

Analysis from the Carbon Trust suggests that energy storage could contribute £2.4bn to UK electricity system savings by 2030, but only if a range of ‘necessary regulatory reforms’ are introduced to steady the UK’s energy market.

“These solutions could include continued promotion of smart metering, reforms to increase market openness and transparency for all grid ancillary services and long-term grid service contracts and pricing schemes. We will also analyse the benefits of various policy options for the future of the energy market that include storage,” Eaton’s distributed energy segment manager Louis Shaffer said.

Energy storage is fast becoming one of the hottest topics in generation circles. As countries continue to increase their renewable output viable storage solutions become equally important As with energy generation successful storage will require a mix of different technologies to cater for different situations.   Battery storage will certainly work on a local short-term level. However large scale nationwide supply will require more suitable technologies.

Pump Storage Hydro is considered to be one of the most advanced largest capacity form of grid energy storage that currently exists. This proven technology can help reduce renewable energy curtailment and therefore promote grid stability. For example ILI Group is currently working on three potential large scale developments in Scotland which combined could export over 1.2GW of energy to the grid.

Renewable energy is the answer to clean, safe energy generation. Renewable energy storage will help us overcome intermittency issues and guarantee that whatever the weather we will have a continuous flow of clean energy.


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