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Why Are More Countries Interested in Grid-Scale Battery Storage?

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Emily Newton's picture
Editor-In-Chief Revolutionized Magazine

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine. She enjoys writing articles in the energy industry as well as other industrial sectors.

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  • Sep 23, 2021

As more animals become endangered and natural resource supplies dwindle, scientists and regulators search for effective conservation methods. The energy sector is the top greenhouse gas emitter globally, creating climate change prevention challenges. Countries are looking to alternative power technology to reduce ecological degradation and support green infrastructure advancements.

The production limitations of renewable energy sources decrease their compatibility with modern electricity demands. Officials are exploring grid-scale battery storage as a solution, increasing the clean power supply and its accessibility. Emission reduction is a driving factor behind countries’ interest in storage technology expansion.

Renewable Energy Compatibility

Grid-scale battery storage expands the potential uses of emission-free energy sources. Countries look to solar and wind power as sustainable fossil fuel alternatives, decreasing ecological degradation. Photovoltaic (PV) panel systems deliver clean electricity directly to a building’s outlets.

When the sun is shining, individuals gain access to clean energy. Until recently, building owners could only use solar power when sunlight was reaching their panels. Solar installation professionals recognized the challenges and began installing small-scale batteries.

The technology can support electricity needs in the evening when panels are unable to generate power. Though many individuals invest in on-site batteries, others go without them because of their high costs. Residents may pay an additional $14,000 for solar battery installations.

Their costs create limitations for many panel owners, decreasing the efficiency of their systems. Officials recognized the storage challenges and promoted large-scale clean grid development. Individuals can access solar and wind power using clean energy grids, supported by advanced battery technology.

Countries are allocating a significant portion of funding to environmental engineers and scientists, helping them create battery energy storage system advancements. Recent technological developments show promising potential for emission-free energy support, reducing society’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Technological Advancements

Australian scientists recently developed hydrogen batteries, storing renewable energy and increasing countries’ interest in grid-scale battery storage. The device resides in a shipping container and uses fuel cells, electrolyzers, hydrogen-metal compound canisters, and more, expanding storage capabilities.

Professionals expect the sustainable hydrogen production sector to develop about 550 million metric tons of usable fuel in the coming decades. Scientists are using the production increase to their advantage, creating a reliable storage system.

Engineers at the University of New South Wales developed a technology that transfers solar energy into a 5-kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium battery. After the battery reaches a full charge, the electricity travels through an electrolyzer, dividing it into hydrogen and oxygen. The technology releases pure oxygen into the environment, supporting the global ecosystem.

Then, the additional hydrogen travels into a metal canister, where it resides in a metal alloy. When consumer electricity demands rise, the grid can access the stored hydrogen, creating emission-less energy. The technology remains in the testing phase, and other companies are using lithium-ion battery storage to create small-scale storage grids.

Vistra, a Texas-based energy company, developed a clean electric storage center using an old power plant. Professionals placed a 300-megawatt lithium-ion battery in an abandoned smokestack. They are adding another 100-megawatt battery this year, generating and storing enough electricity to support homes in San Francisco for six hours a day.

The state plans on using the system to reduce emissions and meet peak energy demands. So far, the technology is successful, sparking government officials’ interest in grid-level renewable energy storage. Other companies are developing battery technology advancements, limiting society’s reliance on depletable resources like lithium.

Professionals developed redox-flow batteries in the 1900s, supporting the NASA space program. As scientists searched for new clean energy storage techniques, they revisited the technology, creating diversity in the battery sector. The battery uses an oxidation-reduction reaction, moving electrons between chemicals.

When electrochemical cells within the battery connect through both ends, they create available electricity. The systems create a four-hour flow of electricity, producing a smaller carbon footprint than lithium versions.

Other scientists are using zinc-hybrid batteries to store clean energy. The system also creates four hours of electricity, decreasing a storage center’s reliance on lithium. Over time, technological advancements increase the efficiency and capacity of clean energy storage, helping countries understand their value.

Economic Implications

The economic benefits of grid-scale energy storage are becoming evident. Solar power is the most cost-effective energy source to date. Developing and using large-scale electric grids could significantly lower utility costs, helping individuals save money.

The cost of lithium-ion battery components also decreased by nearly 80% over the past half-decade. While energy prices drop, individuals worry about the effects on the market. Transitioning away from fossil fuels towards clean energy requires many workers of various backgrounds.

Since the pandemic, job security has become a top priority. The clean energy industry may define the future, creating more employment opportunities for struggling individuals. The renewable energy sector combined with grid and storage employs 630,763 individuals to date.

Countries are looking to utilize energy storage systems, increasing job security. They may also use the technology to increase society’s access to emission-less electricity, decrease environmental inequity, and improve conservation efforts.

Government Regulations

Government officials are looking to clean energy grids as effective methods of decreasing fossil fuel usage. Many countries set climate change prevention goals, requiring sustainable changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly. President Biden developed a carbon-neutrality plan for the U.S. in answer to the nation’s interest in grid-scale battery storage.

The Biden Administration’s Build Back Better plan allocated $2 trillion to sustainability in multiple sectors. The country hopes to reduce its carbon emissions and create more clean energy union jobs with effective technological advancements. Iceland set similar standards in its efforts to build an emission-free electric grid.

The country is banning the use of fossil fuel-reliant vehicles, promoting a transition to electric vehicles. Creating an emission-less transportation system requires the production of sustainable electricity. They can generate and distribute enough clean energy to support their goals when using green grid technology.

In 2015, the United Nations create a global feeling of urgency surrounding climate change. The ambitious plan will reduce post-industrial temperature increases on Earth to 2 degrees or less.

Nearly 197 nations signed the Paris Agreement, signifying their climate change prevention commitment. Countries can support the goal by expanding their uses of emission-less energy. Adopting efficient storage technologies and compatible devices can improve global sustainability.

Developing an Emission-Free Grid

Energy professionals and civil engineers may begin constructing emission-less grids by applying battery storage technologies. They can look to successful models, like Vistra’s, to examine which methods work and which need alterations based on location.

As countries start requesting battery storage grid development, construction professionals can increase their success by being prepared.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 23, 2021

I see energy storage coming along on a project by project basis-- we can observe and adjust as needed, but a great example is the solar+storage coming into New Mexico to directly replace a retiring coal plant:

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 24, 2021

Emily, that grid-scale batteries are being used to store clean energy is a common misperception. Not that it isn't encouraged by natural gas interests - it is. They build battery facilities next to solar and wind farms, to make us think only clean energy is being stored.

But that's not how grid-scale batteries are used, in practice. They're being used to store a grid mix, always with a significant percentage of gas-fired energy as part of that mix. Because batteries are not-perfectly efficient - not even very efficient - much energy is wasted in the conversion from electricity to electrochemical storage, then back again (much is dissipated as heat loss). So whatever is lost must be generated again, by whatever independent power producers (IPPs) are generating electricity at the time. On average, less than one-fourth of the grid mix is renewable energy, even in "green" California.

Generating all of this extra energy, of course, generates more carbon emissions. Natural gas interests love wasting all this electricity, however. The more gas they burn, the more money they make (the price of the natural gas fuel used to generate electricity is billed to ratepayers). As they burn more gas, our electricity becomes more expensive, and the impacts from climate change become worse.

So despite the fact batteries are being touted as a clean energy solution, "efficient storage technology" is an oxymoron - batteries are inherently inefficient. In practice, they're creating even more emissions than simply generating electricity to meet demand, straight to the grid - the most efficient way to get electricity into people's homes.

I realize that's disappointing, but I hope you'll take a harder look at what's motivating the use of storage on the electrical grid. Things are not always what they seem.

Rao Konidena's picture
Rao Konidena on Sep 25, 2021

I wish countries emphasized the potential of distributed scale energy storage rather than grid-scale energy storage because grid-scale energy storage needs a high voltage transmission line to charge and discharge energy. But with a home battery or commercial and industrial battery or any storage device located on the distribution system, we are charging and discharging using the existing distribution network, not needing a $1 million per mile T line.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 26, 2021

Rao, there is only one circumstance where distributed energy storage is more efficient than storage on the grid: when homes or businesses are generating a significant percentage of energy from local solar, and are charging directly from the DC output of their panels. Any time storage is storing electricity from the grid, it's already made the trip from a generation facility (or grid storage facility) and we're only adding another layer of inefficiency - and emissions.

"But with a home battery or commercial and industrial battery or any storage device located on the distribution system, we are charging and discharging using the existing distribution network, not needing a $1 million per mile T line."

A $1 million per mile T-line is pennies on the dollar compared to the cost of Li-ion batteries themselves, and will last much longer. Fortunately, most grid-scale storage is located near transmission hubs anyway, so it's not really an issue.

Then there is the issue of social equity. Distributed energy resources (DER), whether storage or solar, or both, can save customers money. Many homeowners can't afford the cost of a $10,500 Tesla PowerWall, or a $20,000 solar array, however, and must cross-subsidize the cost of maintaining grid transmission for wealthier homeowners who use it less. Solar arrays and storage aren't available to most apartment dwellers at all.

If access to electricity is not a privilege, but a right - as FDR insisted over seventy years ago - everyone must share the costs of providing electricity to everyone else. Like police protection, like fire prevention, like public water or highway maintenance, it's a cost which ultimately benefits everyone.

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