The key to scaling renewable energy is storage

Thomas Tveiten Lewis |

The global energy shortages experienced this winter proves that the reliability that fossil fuels provide is still highly valued in the market. For renewable energy to displace fossil fuels it will have to offer the same ability to store energy for utilization when it is required by the market.

Wind turbine.

2022 was launched with record prices in European power markets, with power futures trading at an all-time high. The global market face further disruptions as large coal producers like Indonesia are restricting exports to secure their own energy needs, and Hydroelectric producers like Norway face internal pressure to limit export.

While solar and wind will play a vital role in de-carbonizing the economy, their intermittency poses a challenge to securing the necessary supply reliability, to what is inherently an inflexible demand. In the short term, us consumers will have to pay whatever the cost, to secure the power we need. Such is our reliance on energy, that we can’t simply go without power till sunrise, or the wind starts blowing.

A case in point is Denmark, the Danes have built out a total capacity of 2 750 MW, which covers 57,0% of the Danish energy consumption. However, the below numbers sourced from NordPool show that the production during June 2021 was very volatile. At points in time the production matched nearly ~65% of consumption, but at other times it was below 10-15% of consumption.

This production shortfall must be bridged somehow, whether through excess installed capacity, or a storage solution.

Excess renewable capacity – Who will pay?

Energy demand is smooth and relatively inelastic, how can we couple that to a intermittent power generation system?

If you scale Denmark’s renewable wind generation at a factor of x10, you cover the shortfall, but who will want to invest in a power system where the value of your product drops to zero, due to excess supply in the market?

Our suggestion is to have a sustainable, hybrid solution, which focuses on optimal use of resources, for faster transition to a zero-emission energy system. By storing peak energy production in hydrogen or batteries, we can reduce overcapacity and optimize resource use. Providing value to the excess production in the market, at the same time securing supply stability.    

The way forward – incentives to provide storage.

The issues with intermittency are not lost on large renewable energy producers. Recently, the Indian government awarded a 400MW solar and wind energy tender in 2020, which included a “Round-the-clock” clause. Basically, requiring the producer to provide round the clock supply of renewable power.

While amendments made the final tender less stringent than the initial revision, the mission statement in the tender was clear, green energy storage is seen as the vehicle scaling India’s renewable energy production and freeing the country from carbon intensive fossil fuels.

Following 2021’s energy price surge, expect that authorities in Europe and elsewhere, will be less inclined to accept a higher share of renewables on the grid, without a plan on how to supply green power during low production periods. Entering these 24/7 contracts, will require a solid insight into different storage solutions, their costs, and analysing what suits your specific business case.

Headshot - Thomas Tveiten Lewis.

Thomas Tveiten Lewis

Project Manager / Energy Advisor, Greensight

Mechanical engineer with a specialization in thermal machines from University of Bergen (UIB), and a LL.B (law) from University of Manchester. Experience as a technical project manager at Rolls Royce – Bergen Engines. Works with project management, engineering and technology transfer, and is Greensight’s expert in energy system design.

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