The power of battery storage


In a year where the UK’s national grid had a record number of days without any coal-fired power generation, and the Prime Minister has pledged that offshore wind farms will power every home in the country by 20301

Legislation and policy from the UK government and support across the UK political spectrum are driving the smarter use of renewable energy. Green recovery is no longer a desire; it’s a necessity. Prioritising sustainability and tackling the climate crisis will help to move the UK in a positive direction when entering the post-pandemic world.

To support a greener future, businesses will need to make clear choices about how they acquire, consume and optimise energy. Traditional oil companies such as Shell and BP are now investing heavily in the renewable energy sector, acquiring assets and shareholdings. The energy transition has accelerated the shift towards utilising cleaner energy, and as a result, there has been rapid growth for the battery storage market.

A recent report from the UK Battery Storage Project Database2 has indicated that the UK has reached a milestone of 1GW of battery storage applications online. Remarkably, the report also suggests that there are another 13GW of projects in the pipeline ready to move past the planning stages and become a reality.

Reducing grid dependency
2020 marks the year where there was no coal-fired power generation on Britain’s national grid for the longest period of time since the industrial revolution3. There is now an evident need for additional renewable energy sources such as wind and photovoltaic PV solar to be added to the grid. While this moves our grid supply to become more dependent on greener, lower-carbon sources it also increases the need for greater flexibility and management of the national grid due to the high percentage of variable resources such as wind, solar and tidal power.

The use of intelligent battery systems is one solution to finetune the management and balancing of the grid while increasing the use of flexible energy sources. The increase in accessible grid-tied battery storage systems is one of the fundamental cornerstones in managing current and future demands.

Driving the battery storage trend
Current market trends show that electricity demand will only continue to rise, a contributor to this trend is the switch from diesel to plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) or fully electric vehicles (EVs). The choice of PHEV or EV models available for purchase from major car manufacturers is expected to triple in the coming years4 with the expected demand for EV batteries projected to double every three years.

In the public transport sector, we are witnessing a switch to e-mobility in company cars along with a move to further electrification of trains and the conversion of bus fleets to electric or hydrogen fuel cell combinations. The shift towards cleaner travel for public transport increases the demand for accessible power and charging stations to keep commuters moving. This will inevitably lead to the need for smarter integrated battery storage solutions as part of our daily lives.

Evidence of the increasing need for integrated battery storage solutions is already present in the public and private sectors. It’s not uncommon for office buildings to have PV carports combined with battery storage solutions to allow employees and customers to charge their vehicles or fleets of company cars. The use of smart static storage battery solutions will enable businesses and public authorities to manage and optimise their energy costs while protecting the environment as they move to a time of higher energy consumption.

Smaller scale storing
Across the UK, SME’s and consumers are becoming much more energy conscious, environmentally aware and pushing forward with their own energy optimisation projects. Small businesses within the industrial, agri-tech and farming sectors are starting to invest in their own sources of energy. As feed-in tariffs (FITs) have declined, business owners are looking for new ways to get returns on their investments. Adding or retrofitting small battery storage solutions to existing PV or smaller wind turbine installations provides an opportunity to become ‘grid independent’ and in turn, allows businesses to become their own energy provider. The same goes for new installations of PV and wind combined battery systems to help to avoid premium charges if used for peak shaving, load shifting and self-consumption as and when required.

The use of smart battery storage systems in either grid-tied or off-grid applications will provide much greater flexibility for consumers and allow businesses to take control of their energy optimisation. Battery storage units act as crucial solution for the storage and maintence of variable energy sources. As the price point and technology also improves for battery systems, it will inevitably lead to continued and sustainable growth in the battery storage sector across the UK and beyond.

Jim Davidson is CEO of Albacom, a Scotland-based engineering and manufacturing firm that has diversified into sustainable engineering. The company’s recent merger with energy storage company Genista Energy has expanded Albacom’s offering into the renewable energy sector. Together with expertise from Genista’s Managing Director Graham Hall, Albacom and Genista Energy design and build battery storage systems for renewable/sustainable energy projects.
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