• The triumvirate of the energy transition: the growth in storage

    The triumvirate of the energy transition: the growth in storage

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Published 30 de September de 2019

For centuries, flexible storage has been the missing link in the electricity sector. However, after decades of research into and testing of energy storage technology, we are now witnessing the emergence of various solutions set to shake up a number of sectors, including urban mobility and energy.

The most obvious example are electric vehicles, which have gained ground rapidly over recent years and now include models with batteries which can do up to 800 kilometres without having to be recharged. However, in the near future storage systems will also be commonplace in our homes. According to BloombergNEF, together with wind and solar energy, batteries complete the triumvirate of new technologies that will make the energy transition possible.

According to the report New Energy Outlook 2019, over the next thirty-two years, 1.9 trillion dollars will be invested in photovoltaic installations and behind-the-meter batteries, i.e. in homes and at business and industrial premises.

This is closely linked to the trend towards self-consumption in Spain, resulting in a growth in storage, not surprising given the numerous benefits it offers (flattening of the demand curve, having energy available when there is no sunlight or wind, etc.).

Up until now, the significant costs involved have been an obstacle, but advances in technology and the fact that more and more people are opting for such systems have put them on an upward trend. According to BloombergNEF, the amount of time it takes to get back the investment made to equip a home with solar panels and a battery will have been cut in half in 20 years’ time, from 13 years today to 6 years by 2040. It also predicts that the small battery market will have grown fivefold to 10.7 billion dollars by 2050.

Self-consumption has been a feasible option in Spain since April 2019, when the Government approved a law giving the green light to this kind of consumption, also known as prosumption.

This is unsurprisingly set to result in a sharp increase in installed capacity over 2019. In fact, according to data from the Spanish Photovoltaic Association (UNEF), in 2018, 261.7 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic capacity was installed in Spain, 235.7 MW of which was from self-consumption installations. However, it should be noted that 25% of such installations were installed for irrigation.

One of the main changes brought about by the new law was the regulation of shared self-consumption. Within this context, storage has become even more important and a concept which is not yet well known in Spain but that we’ll no doubt hear a lot about in the near future has gained particular relevance, namely virtual power plants (VPP).

In order to access the market and sell surplus electricity a certain critical mass is needed. This is precisely what a VPP does - it aggregates distributed energy resources (such as those from the power generating units of neighbours) and centrally controls production and consumption, as well as any energy stored in batteries.

The latest market developments involve complex technology platforms based on artificial intelligence, with algorithms trained to identify the best time to sell, store and consume energy.

At Ayesa, after testing a smart system as part of a pilot project on the German island of Borkum, we launched Gridpilot. This is an extremely advanced solution capable of optimising the efficiency of installations, as well as maximising profit from trading energy.

Within the context of the energy transition, ITC (information and communications technology) is playing a vital role, providing us with the tools we need for this revolution. As a technology consulting firm, our aim is to foresee changes and take an active role in making our cities more sustainable.

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