The Future of Flexibility is Battery Storage & BESS Myths Debunked

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Image of Achal Sodhi, VP of Growth, APAC at Fluence

Battery-based energy storage systems (BESS) are quickly filling the role as the critical resource for grid integration across the Asia Pacific region, adding flexibility at multiple points in the electricity system.

For example, large-scale projects have been proposed in the hundreds of megawatts across Australia to replace retiring coal generation and firm solar and wind output, while a BESS fleet totaling nearly 500 megawatts (MW) is being deployed across the Philippines to make the national grid more stable. In addition, many markets across the world are looking to batteries as a way to reduce congestion on transmission networks in far less time than it takes to upgrade existing assets or add new transmission infrastructure.

Located in India, Achal Sondhi, VP Strategy & Market Growth APAC from Fluence, counters several persistent myths about energy storage and shares his views on this accelerating trend.

San Miguel Corporation Malita 20 MW/20 MWH providing grid stability services in the Philippines

Myth #1: The core value of BESS projects primarily are focused on integratin g renewable energy (RE), and batteries are best co-located with solar or wind projects.

Energy storage is first and foremost a technology for making the grid work better – improving power quality, reducing outages and volatility, and enabling generation assets to perform at more optimal set points. Because a BESS can be connected at either the AC or DC level, projects can be sited where they will provide the most benefit – in some cases, hybridizing RE generation like solar or wind, or they can work as a standalone resource. To offer a few examples:

  • In Ireland, Fluence built the world’s fastest grid-scale battery for Statkraft – able to deliver Fast Frequency Response services within 150 milliseconds – as part of a hybrid wind-battery project to support the market’s rapid decarbonisation.
  • In the Philippines, Fluence is delivering a 470 MW/470 MWh portfolio of standalone BESS projects for San Miguel Corporation focused on stabilizing the grid, to be delivered by July of 2022, to manage frequency and voltage and provide reactive power.
  • In California, multiple 100 MW or larger “storage peakers,” resembling data centers are being procured to add local reliability, capture high solar output and deliver that power for the evening peak.

And unlike more infrastructure-heavy flexibility assets like pumped hydro storage or gas generation, BESS projects have a small footprint, faster deployment timelines, charge from the regional grid, have no risks from water availability, and only require a grid connection (I.e., no pipelines or huge civil works).

The risk utilities face in markets adding more solar and wind power is in waiting to add flexibility, requiring them to make emergency procurements of less efficient resources that deliver less benefit and at a higher cost to taxpayers or customers.

AES Alamitos 100 MW/400 MWh “storage peaker” in southern California

Myth #2: If battery prices are projected to keep falling, we should wait to procure BESS assets while still building out RE.

In both heavily regulated and deregulated power markets, the lesson utilities are learning is that the more RE built on your system, the more storage will be needed to stabilize the system. In the meantime, while waiting for prices to drop, the network may have to manage issues that can arise from solar and wind adoption – balancing and ramping requirements, smoothing of RE output, a lack of mechanical inertia from retiring thermal generation.

The more solar installed on your grid, for example, the more power those assets will generate at midday – which can lead to over generation and potentially curtailment, wasting some of the value of those assets – while creating growing needs for ramping support in the late afternoon, as solar generation drops off and demand ramps up.

The flexibility battery storage provide can address many of these needs. For example, on a congested transmission line operating near its thermal limits, one or more BESS assets can mimic typical line flows, taking on excess power from RE generation and dispatching it as line conditions allow, as well as functioning as load during low demand periods. Unlike transmission line upgrades, which can take years to permit and construct, BESS assets can be delivered on a scale of months and scaled up as load growth requires. In addition, building a battery storage asset to solve urgent needs today which may yield a higher internal rate of return than projected drops in battery pack or other component prices

Myth #3: Batteries are a commodity, no different from solar. Any sophisticated developer or supplier can competently purchase lowest-cost components and deliver an integrated BESS solution that will perform reliably.

While battery cells or modules may be purchased as a commodity, an experienced integrator brings vital expertise to deliver and maintain a successful BESS asset. This way, the project can deliver ongoing value and performance across its lifetime.  Consider this question: if you were to integrate a BESS system yourself and experience a serious issue, who would you call to remedy it? If the fault is with the HVAC system, the controls, BMS, batteries, inverter, or the interaction of multiple components, how would you know which product warranty to call upon?

Working with an experienced supplier helps to minimize operational risks, because they have the capability to solve for a wide range of the difficulties can arise at every phase of deploying a BESS project, including providing a single point of contact for O&M needs. Our team has distilled over 13 years of experience deploying grid-scale energy storage into hardware and software controls that continually optimize how a BESS dispatches energy and charges for optimal performance.

That experience also takes the form of a supplier understanding the dynamics of your power market, can think through how to meet your goals in it, and can deliver a system with flexible warranties that can adapt over time to changing conditions. An experienced supplier should also have extensive experience with grid operations and be able to train and work closely with your team to ensure safe operation for years after commissioning.

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Further, delivering reliability and availability requires appropriate maintenance, and technology providers should be able stand behind their system for its lifespan, which for BESS assets could be 20 years or longer.

In short, BESS’ scalability allows utilities to build flexibility into their grids – whether to increase stability, reduce congestion, or capture and deliver more clean energy – in building blocks that keep step with your growing needs. We encourage utilities to consider battery storage in their planning process, to make the clean energy transition an orderly one, not one dominated by potentially costly emergency procurements.

Written by Achal Sondhi, VP Strategy & Market Growth – APAC, Fluence and to learn more, visit http://fluenceenergy.com.

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