by Amisha Patel, EIC Head of Power, Nuclear and Renewables and Public Affairs
EIC Head of Power, Nuclear and Renewables and Public Affairs Amisha Patel explains the vital role battery storage has to play in making renewable energy mainstream.
While renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are becoming more common across the world, the one issue holding back green power is what’s known as intermittency. Put simply, if the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, wind farms and solar plants don’t generate power.
But this is changing, with energy storage playing a major role, allowing energy generated by renewable sources to be banked and released later even when there’s no breeze or in the middle of the night.
Energy storage comes in many different shapes and sizes, with the two most common methods of storing energy from renewable sources being hydrogen storage and lithium ion batteries.
Hydrogen storage is of particular use to offshore wind farms, as hydrogen can be produced by electrolysing water, including the seawater around the turbines, splitting it into its constituent parts: hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can be stored and used when needed to power fuel cells or power plants. The only product is water and emissions are minimal. Without a doubt hydrogen storage has huge potential and great green credentials, although at the moment the technology is still in its first phase, with trials taking place. Watch this space though.
Lithium ion batteries are the most established and popular energy storage option for solar and wind farms, and are just like massive versions of the batteries used in your phone or laptop. These batteries soak up any excess power produced by wind and solar farms when conditions are good, ensuring this energy doesn’t go to waste, releasing it later as and when needed.
A big reason for lithium ion batteries being the go-to storage option on renewable energy assets, and indeed across the energy storage market, is that they are highly efficient and have long lifecycles, being able to store and release power over months, rather than some energy storage options which operate on cycle-lengths of days or even hours. Another big factor is that their price is dropping all the time.
This reduction in cost is largely due to the massive rise of electric cars and vehicles, which also use lithium ion batteries. And with many states in Europe and around the world phasing out diesel cars, the world fleet is quickly going electric.
Wood Mackenzie anticipates that Europe’s global share of battery manufacturing will grow from 6 per cent in 2018 to 35 per cent by 2026, being driven by large contracts from automotive manufacturers in preparation for the expected boom in electric vehicles.
In the UK the battery storage market is relatively small today. However, that’s set to change, and we’ll eventually contribute a significant part of overall European growth. Research conducted by Aurora Energy revealed that an estimated £6 billion will need to be invested in the UK’s energy storage market by 2030 if the nation is to decarbonise at the rate necessary to meet its legally binding carbon targets, with batteries set to play a significant role.
While policy incentives to support developers of battery facilities were initially slow to get off the ground in the UK, the government has started to show considerable support for the industry, providing almost £250 million of funding for the development of battery technology through the Faraday Challenge, while the National Grid has recently started issuing contracts for batteries co-located on renewable energy assets. And with clear governmental guidelines in place, private equity is starting to be invested in rolling out battery storage technology at commercial scale with global energy developers such as Vattenfall entering the UK market.
With governmental support and corporate investment, the UK battery storage market will soon hit its full potential, driving down costs and ensuring clean and constant output from our renewable energy sources.