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BESS Solutions Become More Common as Load Management Support

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Karen Marcus's picture
Freelance Researcher and Writer Final Draft Communications, LLC

In addition to serving as an Energy Central Community Manager, Karen Marcus has nearly 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked...

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The future of renewable power sources depends on battery systems that make it possible to store energy for later use. A battery energy storage system (BESS) is one kind of this type of solution. The growing availability of increasingly affordable BESS solutions has implications for load management as well as other essential uses.

What Is BESS?

A BESS uses rechargeable batteries to store energy generated by such sources as wind and solar and release it at a later time. The systems may be based on lithium-ion, lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, sodium-sulfur, or flow batteries. The batteries, which are made up of cells, can be arranged in modules, packs, or containers. A BESS can flexibly be used in off-grid renewables-only energy generation or as support for established grid solutions.

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In addition to the batteries, a BESS includes a battery management system (BMS), power conversion system (PCS), energy management system (EMS), and safety systems. These systems can vary in size considerably — from those that serve a single household to those that can help deliver energy to hundreds of thousands of residences.

Load Management Capabilities

Electricity demands vary according to temperature fluctuations and other considerations based on the time of year and time of day. Utilities can use BESS solutions to reduce power consumption during peak periods, a process known as peak shaving. The BESS relieves the grid of the extra load yet continues to supply power without interruption. Such measures can help avoid blackouts and other power delivery disturbances.

Other Capabilities

While load management is critical, a BESS can be used for other functions as well:

  • Price control. With a BESS installed, both residential and business power users can charge their battery during off-peak times when energy prices are cheaper and use it at their convenience or sell it back to the grid.
  • Power backup. Following a power outage, a BESS can provide cheap, fast, green power until the grid can be restored. This use is especially helpful for essential businesses such as hospitals, whose services protect people’s health and safety.  
  • Voltage and frequency regulation. A BESS can help ensure grid stability by providing energy and preventing grid overload, which can lead to blackouts and other grid disturbances.
  • T&D deferral. A BESS can temporarily serve in place of grid transmission and distribution (T&D) equipment which decreases in effectiveness as it ages over time.
  • Microgrids. A BESS can be part of a microgrid, which can operate alone to power large business operations (such as manufacturing plants) or small or remote communities, or in conjunction with a larger established grid to serve the purposes mentioned above.

Because the cost BESS of solutions has dropped significantly since the technology was introduced in the 1980s — and because they are now being built with a variety of capacities and sizes — the possibilities for both front-of-the-meter (FTM) and behind-the-meter (BTM) options are increasing. Both utilities and energy consumers will increasingly be taking advantage of their many benefits in the coming years.

How is your utility using BESS solutions? Please share in the comments.

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