Energy storage can address looming power shortages

Electrical power generation in the U.K. has been facing many challenges in the last decade. Some of the most critical include: reduction in generation capacity, unrealistic carbon emission targets and increasingly unpredictable loads

October 10, 2012 — Energy storage will help to increase the effectiveness of renewable generation, the efficiency of thermal plants, and the resilience and stability of the existing electrical transmission network

The shortfall in electricity supply within the next three years highlighted by Ofgem in its latest report presents a strong case for energy storage technologies as they can de-couple production and consumption of electricity by creating a buffer.

Electrical power generation in the U.K. has been facing many challenges in the last decade. Some of the most critical include: reduction in generation capacity, unrealistic carbon emission targets and increasingly unpredictable loads.

Frost & Sullivan Research Manager Alina Bakhareva explains how energy storage can help to overcome some of the key issues the energy industry and the British government are facing in the UK.

Reduction in Generation Capacity: "Recent legislation has been passed to allow the electricity grid operators to selectively cut power to industrial consumers in times of peak load, to protect domestic supply. The anticipated boosting of the UK's reserve capacity and installed capacity through the building of wind farms and incentivized solar panel installation has a downside of upsetting the electricity network performance and is giving concern to the local network operators on the grid stability. The performance of wind farms and solar PV panels is below the expectations placed on it by the policy makers in central government. Energy storage will play a huge part in enabling renewable generation technologies to perform in a more stable manner on the grid, and in making the business case for investment in renewable a more attractive proposition."

Unrealistic Carbon Emission Targets: "The ambitious greenhouse gas emissions target of at least 34 percent by 2020 is intended to drive a wider adoption of renewable sources of electricity generation. However, many of the renewable generation solutions are intermittent by nature, which creates uncertainty on how much energy would be produced during a day/hour/minute. The intermittent nature of wind, solar PV and tidal generation schemes means that there must always be a standby capacity ready to be brought online to meet demand, which means that renewables are not entirely zero carbon emissions. The standby capacity is created by fossil-fuel-based stations that run idle until the wind stops blowing or the sun goes in. Incidentally, when the wind blows too hard at low demand periods wind farms have to be turned off, wasting large amounts of carbon-free electricity. Energy storage seeks to address this intermittency by acting as a reservoir, or buffer, to accumulate the electricity generated and release the energy when needed."

Unpredictable Loads: "The electricity network and the network operators' business model are being forced to change dramatically from a centralized generation model to many smaller distributed power stations generating electricity for industrial and large commercial premises, often under an energy service company model. In addition to a rising demand for power from existing applications and users, entirely new user categories, such as electric vehicles, with yet unpredictable consumption patterns are about to plug in to the grid. This creates further uncertainty on the demand peaks and amounts of electricity needed to power new mobility."

Energy storage significantly increases the effectiveness of wind, solar and tidal generated electricity because the energy is time-shifted to peak demand, which strengthens the business case for investment in a renewable generation scheme. Also, some energy storage technologies under development increase efficiency of the CHP, waste-to-energy plants and distributed gas-based smaller power plants by using excess electricity (and heat) to make it available when it is needed for running the equipment.

Energy storage as a new sub-segment of power industry is already taking shape. A host of energy storage technologies are on the brink of becoming commercially available.

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