The rapid substitution of fossil fuels with renewable energy depends on battery storage technologies. This article is the first in a series explaining what battery energy storage is, how it functions, and how it can benefit you at home or at work.
Battery storage, or battery energy storage systems (BESS), are devices that enable energy from renewables, like solar and wind, to be stored and then released when customers need power most. Battery energy storage benefits include energy efficiency, savings, and sustainability by lowering consumption.
Battery systems are essential for utilities, businesses, and homes to achieve a continuous power flow given the likelihood that an energy supply may experience fluctuations due to weather, blackouts, or for geopolitical reasons. Energy storage systems are no longer an afterthought or an add-on.
What is Solar Energy Storage?
Battery energy storage is particularly effective when combined with solar energy because solar energy storage mitigates the intermittent nature of renewable power and guarantees a steady supply of electricity.
In a solar energy storage system, the batteries charge during the day and then release power when the sun is not shining. Modern batteries for a solar energy system for a home or business typically have an integrated inverter to convert the DC current produced by solar panels into the AC current required to power appliances or equipment.
Solar battery storage works with an energy management system that manages the charge and discharge cycles based on real-time needs and availability.
How Does a Battery Storage System Work?
Compared to the batteries you keep in your kitchen drawer or put in your kids’ toys, battery energy storage systems are much more sophisticated. Electricity produced using renewable resources, such as wind and solar energy, can be used to charge battery storage systems.
Computerized control systems are used to determine when to keep the energy for reserves or release it to the grid, while intelligent battery software uses algorithms to coordinate energy production. During periods of peak demand, energy is released from the battery storage system to keep costs low and the electricity flowing.
This article is concerned with large-scale battery storage systems, but domestic energy storage systems work on the same principles.
Why is Battery Storage Important?
The variability in production levels caused by unpredictable weather conditions, such as cloudy or windy days, which generate less energy, is one of the challenges with renewable energy.
Renewable energy production surpluses can be collected and stored by utility-scale BESS for later use.
What Are the Main Battery Storage Applications?
Beyond serving as a simple emergency backup in the event of a power outage or shortage, battery storage has many other applications. Depending on whether the storage is being used for a home or a business, different applications are used.
Commercial and Industrial
For commercial and industrial users, there are several applications:
- Peak shaving, or the ability to manage energy demand to avoid a sudden short-term spike in consumption
- Load shifting, which allows businesses to shift their energy consumption from one time period to another, by tapping the battery when energy costs more
- Flexibility, whereby customers can reduce their site’s grid demand at critical times – without changing their electricity consumption. Energy storage, therefore, makes it a lot easier to participate in a Demand Response program and save on energy costs
- Microgrids rely on batteries as a key component, because these grids need energy storage to enable them to disconnect from the main electricity grid when needed
- Integration with renewable energy sources, since batteries guarantee a smooth and continuous electricity flow in the absence of the availability of power from renewables.
Residential users benefit from battery storage applications by:
- Self-consumption, since residential users can produce solar energy during the daylight hours and then run their appliances at home at night
- Emergency backup in the event of a blackout
- Going off the grid, or detaching completely from an electrical or energy utility
The Benefits of Battery Storage
Storage is Cost-effective
Costs have significantly decreased as battery prices in battery energy storage systems (BESS) become more competitive. Since 2010, prices have decreased by 90%, while energy density has increased by 50%.
Energy arbitrage can be achieved with battery storage by storing energy when costs are low and distributing it when costs are high.
Storage Makes the Grid More Resilient
Battery energy storage systems are used because renewable energy sources like wind and solar cannot guarantee continuous production throughout the day due to the unpredictability of the weather.
When used in conjunction with renewable energy, BESS can reduce this intermittency because it can store excess energy and deploy flexible capacity to support the electrical grid during times of high energy demand, such as when temperatures rise or when severe weather events and power outages happen.
The power grid becomes more flexible and dependable when storage is added to renewable energy sources.
Storage Creates Jobs
Technicians for battery energy storage, wind and solar energy, and other fields are among those whose jobs our renewable energy projects are creating. One of the fastest-growing occupations in the US, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is installing solar photovoltaic systems and working on wind turbines.
More than 250,000 jobs have been generated by solar alone in the US, and wind technology jobs are expected to grow by 68% by 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. 25% of solar jobs are filled by minorities and wind employs Veterans in America outnumber the general population at a rate of 67% more.
The number of jobs created is only expected to rise as the cost of renewable energy technology falls and demand for it rises. Numerous local, full-time, and permanent employees are employed by each of our projects, and during construction, hundreds of tradespeople are also involved. Find out more about employment opportunities at Enel North America.
Storage Stimulates Rural Economies
Utility-scale renewable energy sites are typically located in rural areas where landowners, farmers, ranchers, and local governments can gain from the income sources generated by these projects through increased tax revenue, landowner income, and rent payments.
The increased tax revenue can be used by municipalities to pay for urgently needed repairs to bridges, schools, and roads. Rent payments for the use of their land allow landowners, farmers, and ranchers to diversify their sources of income and add a steady additional income to their farming and other businesses.
Furthermore, it makes it possible for family farms and ranches to be maintained and passed down to future generations even when commodity prices are unstable. Find out more about our relationships with landowners.
Storage Improves the Environment
Power is recycled through energy storage. It produces no direct carbon emissions, doesn’t need pipelines, and typically leaves a small environmental footprint with its systems. By reducing the load on conventional generation and enhancing its efficiency, energy storage aids in the reduction of carbon emissions.
Storage is Sustainable
The lithium-ion battery can be recycled. Enel will pursue applications for recycling or repurposing when the battery system reaches the end of its useful life in collaboration with our suppliers. In all facets of our business, Enel is dedicated to sustainable procurement and circularity.
The NFPA 855 Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, for example, is one of the leading industry standards that Enel is a party to and a member of the Energy Storage Association.
How Long Does a Battery Energy Storage Last and How to Give It a Second Life?
Most energy battery storage systems have a lifespan of 5 to 15 years. Battery energy storages are tools that enable sustainability as a component of the ecosystem of energy transition solutions, but they also need to be fully sustainable in and of themselves.
Battery reuse and recycling of the materials they contain at the end of their useful lives are circular economy best practices and overall sustainability goals.
There are environmental advantages to recovering more materials from batteries and giving them a second chance, both during the extraction process and after disposal. Reusing batteries has positive economic effects as well.
What Renewable Energy Storage Systems Are Being Developed?
Renewable energy storage calls for low-cost technologies that are durable (and can be charged and discharged thousands of times), secure, and capable of cost-effectively storing enough energy to meet demand.
A British scientist created lithium-ion batteries in the 1970s, and Sony used them for the first time in a commercial product in 1991 with its handheld video recorder.
Although batteries are currently the most economically feasible energy storage option, there are a number of other battery storage technologies that are currently being developed. These include:
- Compressed air energy storage: These systems, which are typically found in large chambers, compress the air and then store it using excess power. The compressed air is released when energy is required and then it is passed through an air turbine to produce electricity.
- Mechanical gravity energy storage: When energy is used to lift concrete blocks up a tower, that type of system is being used. The concrete blocks are raised back up when energy is required, and gravity is used to produce electricity.
- Flow batteries: Chemical energy is provided by two chemical components dissolved in system-contained liquids and separated by a membrane in these batteries, which are essentially rechargeable fuel cells.
You can check out more information we have on thermal energy storage.
Prescott Hartshorne, Director of Distributed Energy and Renewables for National Grid Ventures, says: “The energy storage industry in general, and batteries in particular, will experience significant growth over the coming ten years. The testing of batteries and other technologies will be crucial at this time.”