Authored by: Paula Beleno-Ortiz
As more utilities embrace DER and bring more solar and wind generation into their systems, they may include battery storage systems in their plans. Categorized as another type of DER, battery storage facilities are one mechanism that help all other DER and alternative power connections become as efficient and beneficial as possible. When managed correctly, they are an asset to generation, transmission, and distribution and will become more important as utilities continue to invest in renewable energy sources.
Battery storage facilities collect energy generated from DER and alternative energy sites and hold that power until it is useful to the grid, taking advantage of optimal generation and load conditions. For example, power is generated through solar photovoltaics only when the sun is shining. But high or low evening temperatures when families are at home, mean air conditioners, other cooling mechanisms, or electric heat sources are in increased demand even when the sun is down. Battery storage plants can help fill this gap, storing power generated during the daytime to deliver during peak load hours even if the sun is not shining. This technology allows solar and wind generation to operate more efficiently, and also to enhance the grid in general. With sufficient battery storage, DER can meet peak power consumption with improved grid flexibility.
Battery storage facilities can be built either at the site of power generation or in a more centralized location, collecting generated power from multiple connections. Where a battery storage facility is built relies on the overall planning and management of DER sources, as well as current and projected load needs. The job of the battery storage facility is the same regardless of where it is located, filling the space between peak energy generation and peak energy usage. By building battery storage near the end user with multiple generation connections, smaller DER connections can become more important to the overall health of the power grid. This is a benefit to the utility through its efficient use of solar and wind power, unrelated of the generation size, contributing to grid stability and reliability and offering management solutions to DER complexities.
Along with the increase in battery storage facility demand, we can expect to see improvements to battery technology. With continuing advancements to lithium-ion batteries, facilities themselves will become more efficient in their use of space, ability to store energy, and how and when they release this energy back into the power grid. Utilities are in a good position to not only benefit from these technological improvements, but to participate in the partnerships that drive them forward through connections with research facilities, manufacturers, and professional organizations.
How is your utility planning for their battery storage future?