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Energy storage projects for renewables 2.0

Energy storage projects for renewables 2.0

22 September is World Energy Storage Day. As the name suggests, it is dedicated to storage systems, which are crucial to the success of renewable energy sources and, consequently, to the energy transition. For this reason, they are a focus of attention for Enel Green Power, which has some major projects in the development phase.

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The word equinox refers to when the day is as long as the night (from the Latin “aequa nox,” literally “equal night): it is an important date that is also symbolic, recalling the concept of balance and, therefore, stability. For this reason, 22 September, which corresponds to the autumn equinox, has been chosen as the date of world energy storage day. This is because energy storage is a decisive tool for ensuring the balance and stability of the electricity grid.

 

Storage for the energy transition

In this phase of the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies, energy storage is crucial in enabling the maximum integration into the electricity system of clean, but intermittent and not perfectly predictable, energy sources like the sun and the wind.

Electricity systems can be assessed in terms of  three parameters: cost, flexibility, i.e. the capacity to respond in real time to the demands of the grid, which are not always predictable based on statistical models, and adequacy, i.e. the possibility to satisfy demand at any moment without causing a blackout, even in the case of a fault at a power plant or on a power line.

Today, from the economic perspective, renewable power plants have overtaken thermoelectric plants in terms of competitiveness in nearly every corner of the world: this is an outcome that was unthinkable just a few years ago. Now energy storage is necessary to ensure that these renewable sources can meet the needs of the system in terms of flexibility and adequacy: storing excess electricity produced, which can then be emitted instantly when conditions require. In this way energy storage can compensate for the intermittence of clean sources and, in the words of Cicerani, “eliminate the need to rely on conventional technologies in those moments.”

In addition to the advantages for the electricity system, storage paired with renewable plants is useful for those generating energy because it enables them, for instance, to feed electricity onto the grid when energy prices are higher, for instance, or to offer grid services necessary to balance the system. This combination produces added value beyond the mere sale of energy. Moreover, in terms of risk, a renewable plant equipped with an energy storage system ensures greater security for investors, minimizing the risks that renewable plants are exposed to in some countries due to congestion or grid availability.

 

Enel Green Power and renewables 2.0

For Enel, the world’s leading private operator in the sector of renewables, energy storage is a clear priority.

 

Our strategy is focused on energy storage installed directly in the renewable generation plants, which are thus transformed into power plants with the same flexibility and adequacy of conventional plants, so much so that they can be referred to as renewables 2.0
Giuseppe Cicerani, Head of business development energy storage at Enel Green Power
 

We already have numerous energy storage projects in the development phase combined with our renewable plants in various countries, for a total of around 5500 MW. As Cicerani explains, “We want to take energy storage wherever it might be able to create value for investors and for the system so, potentially, to all corners of the world,” beginning with those with the greatest need and the most favorable conditions. Based on these criteria, the areas on which we are focusing are North America and Europe with around 2000 MW of projects in each.

 

At the same time, we are exploring other interesting markets such as Australia, which has a substantial need for renewable sources in order to make the country’s electricity system cleaner and to decongest its grid. We are also looking at South Korea, the first country in the world to grant financial incentives for renewable plants paired with energy storage systems. Some African countries are similarly of interest, such as South Africa and Morocco, where the government has begun to hold tenders for renewable plants, on the condition that they are integrated from the outset with energy storage systems.

 

Technology for sustainability

Historically, energy storage began and developed as pumped hydro storage. Currently, however, batteries represent the most promising technology on the market, in particular, electrochemical lithium ion batteries: these are practical, flexible tools that are not cumbersome and above all, are getting cheaper and cheaper. Indeed, their cost has fallen substantially in recent years, thanks to advances in technological research but also due to economies of scale. The competition between manufacturers is also being driven by the increase in the production of electric vehicles that use the same technology on a smaller scale. The forecasts all indicate that this trend is set to continue into the future.

 

Electrochemical batteries are in fact the focus of most of our investment. The field in which our expertise and our experience can create added value is the structuring of business models, the choice of batteries and their optimal conditions of use, in terms, for example of capacity and frequency of charge-discharge cycles. They are based on the characteristics of the individual plants and the electricity markets in which they will be installed.
Giuseppe Cicerani, Head of business development energy storage at Enel Green Power

 

Furthermore, our commitment to technological innovation always leads us to explore new pathways. That is why we have designed and created two new plants in Spain that are based on a completely different type of technology: flow batteries. These are small-scale projects but are testimony to our openness to innovative ideas because they focus on sustainability. On this front, and in order to incentivize suppliers to move in this direction, we have introduced global criteria into our offer evaluation processes.

 

“Some time ago we embarked on a journey of growth concerning issues of sustainability, and we received extremely positive feedback from the market that was in line with our targets. The focus of the coming months will be to ensure that all of our main partners obtain Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) certification, which aims to certify environmentally sustainable performance in the entire production cycle for batteries.”
Nicholas Magliocco, Head of Battery Energy Storage Procurement
 

In the near future the stakes are high: energy storage, concludes Cicerano, “will enable us to aim for an energy mix that is 100% renewable.”

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