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Battery storage may have started off as backup power, but it hasn’t stayed that way.

Battery Storage Can Be Challenging

May 30, 2023
It’s getting harder to find any portion of the power grid that is not using AI.

Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to grab headlines as it steadily moves into the mainstream of technological applications. There’s so much important data being generated every day that humans can’t handle it. We need help in the form of sophisticated algorithms and cutting-edge computer power to make sense of it all. The simple fact is AI makes work easier and speeds things up!

This was brought into focus when March news reports announced the numbers of grid-scale battery storage projects commissioned in 2022 had broken records. The first thought that came to mind was, how could all the 2022 data be sorted in such a short time? That thinking was followed by the material must be estimates or forecasts. Wrong again, the reports weren’t generalized information at all, they contained real substance. Reading further, several of the marketing companies gave away their secret.

They used state-of-the-art AI technology to produce case studies faster than previously thought possible. A little more digging found this process goes by several names, but basically it’s AI-driven marketing research. In less than two months, these AI powered platforms combed through mountains of data giving a clear picture of what had taken place on the transmission grid in 2022. What happened with the grid-scale battery storage sector was amazing and caught “Charging Ahead’s” interest. Let’s look at what stood out in those first reports and articles.

Energy Storage Increasing

For starters, the transmission interconnection queues are an obstacle for battery storage deployment (see https://tdworld.com/21255605 for more details). Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) reported nearly 2,000 gigawatts (GW) of proposed new power generation and battery storage capacities were in those queues by the end of 2022. That’s a lot of gigawatts, but the report went on to say 95% of those ensnared gigawatts consisted of battery storage, solar and wind generation.

Putting numbers to the percentages revealed the entrapped battery storage was roughly 670 GWs. That’s a pretty good indication there is a strong interest in adding substantial battery energy storage systems (BESS) to the transmission system. Not all of these projects will make it out of the queue. Traditionally only about 20% become operational, but still that’s a lot of batteries!

In the BESS category what capacity was actually installed in 2022? Those hard working AI minions easily dug out those figures. Several reports place the BESS global capacity commissioned last year was roughly 17.5 GW/38.2 gigawatt-hours (GWh). In the U.S. the American Clean Power Association said the U.S. deployed approximately 4 GW/12.2 GWh of battery storage capacity in 2022 with about 54% being stand-alone projects and 46% co-locate with existing power plants.

When the 2022 figures are added to the existing U.S. battery storage capacity, it brings the total U.S. storage capacity to 9 GW/25 GWh. Before moving on, several researchers had an interesting side note concerning the 2022 U.S. figures. It seems that the total 2022 installed capacity figure almost equals the combined amount of battery storage added to the grid in 2020 and 2021 — truly a record breaking year!

More Than Backup

That’s why BESS technologies are one of the major trending technologies on the modern power grid, and it appears to be just getting started. Battery storage may have started off as backup power, but it hasn’t stayed that way. Storage technologies have been made profitable by the ancillary service marketplace, and that has been the game changer. It has captured the attention of developers and aggregators too.

They see the attractiveness of adding legacy battery storage assets to the mix, but it’s not easy. Legacy storage systems have some enormously complex issues ranging from a variety of battery technologies and a wide range of battery ages. They live on both sides of the meter and were never designed with today’s applications in mind.

Managing this variety of legacy systems is a challenge, which brings us back to AI-driven technology and applying it to battery storage management applications. What we’re talking about is sophisticated and smart battery control hubs. Hubs that are designed to optimize grid-scale BESS no matter the vintage or variety of the battery storage asset.

Looking Closer

To better understand what is involved with this complex technology, “Charging Ahead” went to the experts. We spoke with AutoGrid’s Tad Piper, senior vice president, Strategy and Corporate Development and Sruthi Davuluri, head of Policy and Market Development. They supplied insights not available in the general informational publications. Ms. Davuluri started off our discussion saying, “Batteries are dynamic devices capable of changing their power output in seconds. That allows them to move from being a power source in wholesale electric markets to a wholesale power consumer when excess power is available.”

Continuing, Davuluri said, “This is important because battery storage provides more features to the power grid than just backup power. With proper management, a BESS helps utilities delay adding infrastructure without negatively impacting their systems and saving T&D costs. Also, a state-of-the-art BESS management application lets the owner/operator provide services in the lucrative ancillary markets. The owner/operator can develop a positive cash-flow by supplying frequency support, voltage regulation, Volt/VAR optimization, and load leveling to name a few services. In addition, the technology can address wind and solar generation’s intermittency issues, making renewables dispatchable. It’s important to manage the battery’s inherent technical constraints to meet these needs.”

Piper explained, “When clouds pass over a large solar array, the power output can drop multiple megawatts in a matter of seconds, which can cause grid instability issues. Variable winds have the same impact on wind farms. With an AI-driven energy storage management system (ESMS), we can manage and control dynamic capacity for many different scenarios and types of energy storage systems. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a nicad-based system, a flow battery, or lithium-ion batteries that are becoming the storage technology of choice. It makes no difference.”

Piper continued, “AutoGrid’s ESMS can control a BESS providing fast-responses with quick injections of power. Most importantly, AutoGrid’s ESMS supports environmentally friendly goals. It enables battery storage full participation in the markets thus reducing a utility’s need to run fossil fuel-powered generation. That is a big positive for utilities meeting their zero-carbon goals.”

Davuluri said, “Battery storage facilities have been on the transmission and distribution grids for many years now and those batteries are aging with special needs and considerations. Operational parameters associated with batteries change with age, and the owners need to consider the best way to operate those elder batteries. It’s a balancing process complicated by the aging factors. Modified operation parameters must be considered to prolong an older battery’s remaining life and capacities, which is where optimization comes into play. The technology must weigh the benefits of how it is using the battery versus straining the battery’s remaining life.”

Piper concluded, “Energy storage technologies are advancing, becoming more affordable, and making available newer and more diverse applications. It doesn’t matter if the BESS is on the transmission or distribution system or which side of the meter it lives on. Wherever the battery storage is located, the ESMS has the ability to efficiently control all aspects of that battery no matter the age, size, or battery technologies efficiently. A smart ESMS like AutoGrid, critically supports asset owners’ ability to manage one, ten, or hundreds of storage devices and balance the demands of onsite requirements and energy market participation.”

Flexible and Resilient

As a non-wire alternative, grid-scale battery storage offers the modern grid a lot of value when it’s an integral part of the network providing innovative services. Peak shaving, capacity firming, and load leveling are a few of the features BESS applications provide, which can assist utilities in delaying infrastructure investments. In addition, a well-managed BESS can supply a host of ancillary services like frequency balancing, renewable capacity firming, active power control, and microgrid capabilities that increase its resiliency.

It's all about flexibility and because of its popularity the costs are dropping, which adds to attractiveness. Battery storage is booming right now, and setting records every quarter especially when it comes to grid-scale BESS. They are found throughout the grid and when it comes to battery storage there is no edge of the grid. Manufacturers such as ABB, AutoGrid, Fluence, GE, Hitachi Energy, Siemens Energy, and others are developing ESMS products that are designed to make battery storage operate wherever they are found.

Research and Markets published a report in March, 2023 estimating the global grid-scale battery storage market will reach a cumulative capacity of 499.1GW/1,340 GWh by 2030, which will be worth about US$71.98 billion. There is also considerable growth expected in AI-driven software platforms to manage the growing use of BESS applications.

It’s a turning point for battery storage technology. The technology and everything associated with it is evolving and shifting to meet our grid’s changing needs. Understanding what is available and how it works is our challenge!

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Photo 204500862 © Ramon Cliff | Dreamstime.com
Courtesy of NextEra Energy Resources. SRP and NextEra Energy Resources, LLC have officially commissioned a 100-megawatt (MW) battery energy storage system to store the energy produced by the operating Saint Solar Energy Center in Coolidge, Arizona.