The Future of Energy Storage
Why is it important and how will it evolve in the coming years?
December 21, 2022
Energy storage has been around as long as the sun; a mass of hydrogen stored for 4.5 billion years, and only in the middle of its life.
Today, it’s now possible to store solar energy on Earth in other forms in order to meet our growing energy needs. This becomes possible when we isolate solar energy to avoid any loss, or better yet, when it’s stored in the form of electrochemical energy in a high-performance battery.
Energy storage for vehicles and buildings is possible thanks to a chemical reaction process that is commonly found at three different levels:
- Behind the meter, on the consumer's premise (businesses and homes);
- At the low and medium voltage electrical distribution level;
- And with medium and high voltage transmission lines.
Regardless of where it is deployed, energy storage represents tremendous value to the entire energy sector.
For building owners (commercial, industrial and residential), the added value of energy storage is primarily behind the meter. It allows to discharge the stored energy (therefore available) at the precise moment when it is required for loads to be protected (ex: elevators, lighting, doors, computer systems, etc...). Furthermore, depending on the incentive programs offered by the electricity supplier, additional benefits are possible for both the owner and the energy supplier.
Various services exist for energy storage but essentially, the value to building owners resides in:
- Backup power for critical operations in the event of an outage;
- Cost reduction, by limiting demand on the grid when rates are less favorable, either during daily or seasonal power peaks;
- And arbitration when it makes sense to compare between re-injecting the available energy from the battery rather than consuming or storing it.
Impact on electric vehicles
We believe that the services provided by the various storage techniques will be adapted by the effervescence of electric vehicles and their addition to the current grid.
Technologies such as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) and Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) that allow the energy from an electric car battery to be sent back to the electrical grid, or to the building's electrical distribution system, will provide new storage opportunities that should not be overlooked.
Impact on building resilience
Energy storage also has a direct impact on increasing the resiliency of a building and therefore the continuity of critical operations in the event of an outage.
Energy storage technology can provide backup power, similar to a fossil-fuel generator, making a building more resilient to power outages and thus reducing any losses caused by a shutdown (or partial shutdown) of your business operations.
Depending on the criticality of your operations, not many investments promise to increase the resiliency of a facility more than a secure and easily accessible energy source through a properly sized energy storage system.
Additionally, and not the least of the benefits, batteries offer the possibility to be recharged directly from the grid at the most economical time, or with renewable resources (primarily the sun, when equipped with proper equipment) when the grid is down.
At the city level, storage can imply more resilient and flexible energy systems with higher levels of energy security through the integration of locally produced energy (e.g., telecommunication systems, railroad switching, storm water drainage, etc.).
From a citizen point of view, and a building owner point of view, energy storage thus offers the advantage of better control on energy cost and energy origin, as well as greater resilience.
Various storage technologies are currently available and others are under development. Technologies developed in recent years include:
- Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
- Hydroelectricity (pumped storage power stations or PSTS)
- Lithium-Ion batteries
- Compressed air energy storage, and more.
The most relevant technology for commercial buildings today is the battery, due to its decreasing cost, compactness, ease of integration with renewables, and instantaneous response time. Batteries are now very safe, so there is no need to worry about untimely incidents when integration practices are determined by professionals.
In fact, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has reviewed 15 energy storage technologies in various stages of commercialization. Regardless of cost, most of these technologies could support the grid with short and long durations. However, the rapidly declining cost of Lithium-Ion batteries makes them the most attractive energy storage technology. The cost of lithium-ion batteries has dropped by 80% over the past decade and is expected to continue to fall, largely due to the demand for electric vehicles.
In addition, it is very important to understand that efficient energy storage complements the transition to renewable energy for commercial and industrial buildings. Despite their intermittency, renewables (solar, wind, etc.) have many advantages, but their full value can be enhanced with battery storage.
Consequently, storage plays a fundamental role in ensuring that systems equipped with renewable energy generators solve or minimize the drawback of intermittency, counteract seasonality factors and adapt to fluctuating collective energy demand.
In some cases, return on investment for batteries can be harder to justify. Fortunately, the power of the vadiMAP technology allows us to accurately simulate the behavior of the battery for a full year and thus calculate the economic benefits over a 25-year period, taking into account the economic, operational and technical contexts of the building.
One thing is certain, the era of the traditional fossil-fuel powered generator is behind us. The battery allows us to do much more, cleanly and at an increasingly affordable cost. But don't improvise; expert help is inevitable for a successful integration.
vadiMAP is perfectly positioned to help businesses and commercial, institutional and industrial building owners become pillars of these advances. Batteries, and possibly hydrogen one day, are essential when aiming to reach the three fundamental goals of the vadiMAP solution: reducing energy costs, increasing operational resiliency and decreasing the environmental footprint of the building.
Rocky Mountain Institute – The Economics of Battery Energy Storage
NREL – Storage Futures Study
Urban Insight – Beyond the Tipping Point
Mark Z. Jacobson – 100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything