WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Renewable energy is clean and green, but when the sun goes down and the wind drops energy output falls, which means sustainable renewable energy needs grid scale battery storage to support it.
Multinational energy utility Engie has launched a new grid connected storage project in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The first phase of the project will be 150kW, or 90kWh, in size and the aim is to provide grid balancing services to distribution grid provider TenneT by using second hand batteries from electric vehicles.
It also signals the beginning of a new industry, namely the use of millions of second hand EV batteries, that will help solve one of renewable energies most pressing problems, the fact that solar panels only generate electricity during the day which means that at night, unless the energy is stored somewhere, home owners have to resort to using electricity from the grid. And in short, if we can solve this supply-demand problem, whether it’s by developing new solar panels that work in all conditions, including rain and cloudy conditions, like these bacterial solar panels or these graphene ones from China, or by building huge grid scale storage systems, then we can rid the world of electricity from fossil fuel sources – something that would delight climate change campaigners.
Engie says that by using a new grid scale system architecture, where the engineers have arranged the so called “second-life” EV batteries in a series, they’ve managed to increase both their power and capacity, and also reduce costs.
The E-Stor System as it’s being called, which was developed in partnership with energy storage technology company Connected Energy, is set to be adopted on a larger scale at various other sites in northern Europe after the initial phase has been evaluated.
A Connected Energy spokesperson said that the second and third stages of the project will be launched in early and late 2019, respectively. The second stage is expected to have a power rating of 1 MW, while the following stage will be larger, although the spokesperson declined to say by how much. They did say, however, that all of the projects will be realised in partnership with Engie.
Connected Energy’s system is characterised by the fact that it controls each battery pack individually, using the battery pack’s own management system. Through that, parameters like health status, charge and heat can be monitored and steered accordingly, to optimize the utilisation of each battery.
While the project with Engie requires the battery to simply provide frequency control, the spokesperson pointed out that the E-Stor batteries are able to provide other grid services, like operational reserve and primary control. In the UK, for example, the company operates a storage system for Statkraft, which is integrated into the company’s virtual power plant solution – another current energy industry trend whereby utility companies aggregate together different renewable energy sources, such as collections of solar panels to do away with the need to build new power stations, as they did recently in California – and sells energy on the spot market.
While there is a supply arrangement with EV manufacturer Renault for second-life batteries, the company will also partner with other car companies. In the past, it has also worked with Jaguar Land Rover, and Mercedes is also getting in on the act after they too used second-life batteries from their EV’s to build out their own grid scale battery system in a bunker in Germany that provides peak electricity to the German energy grid.
The spokesperson also highlighted that the system is adaptable and can accommodate various types of batteries, hinting at the fact that some are air cooled and some are liquid cooled.
Commenting on the project, Connected Energy’s CEO Matthew Lumsden said, “We are delighted with the positive results and feedback from the first stage of this exciting journey with Engie. Our second-life E-Stor battery containers have been proven to deliver on a technical and economic level: they should provide a guaranteed 10 year service in the frequency market with a substantial cost benefit versus new batteries. This is just the start of a sequence of much bigger system rollouts – 2019 is looking extremely promising indeed.”
Earlier this year, a report highlighted that the market for second-life EV batteries is snowballing and that by 2025 second-life battery applications in energy storage systems could reach 42 GWh of capacity.
The report also highlights that improved manufacturing processes related to standardisation make this type of second-life use achievable at better costs, which would increase revenue generation for stakeholders in the market even further.
The analysts then went on to spell out the business case for deploying second-life EV batteries in the UK. The case study speculates that a supplier of reserve capacity through a multi-MW storage system would earn around £50,000 per MW, or about $65,000, per year. So, for example, a 100 MW plant of 7,000 Nissan Leaf batteries could generate annual revenue of $6.7 million, which translates to $965 per battery per year. And for the expected rest life-cycle of five years, each battery would yield $4,825, wrote the authors.
There are many ways we can wean the world off of fossil fuels, and second-life batteries are one of our biggest and best assets – especially as the number of EV’s on the road looks set to accelerate in the coming decades as more and more governments, from China and India, to France and the UK, ban the sale of combustion engine vehicles from 2030 onwards. Yes, the future is getting greener, and brighter…