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Cheap energy storage will change the renewable energy debate

Diagram-energy-storage-1Storage – the missing link NuClear News No 91, Jan 2017  Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predicts a six-fold increase in investment in energy storage to $8.2bn (£6.7bn) by 2024, and to $250bn (£197bn) by 2040. This massive growth in energy storage will create a “fundamentally different” global power system. This energy storage ‘megashift’ is already beginning to gather pace. The battery market has seen breath-taking levels of growth from utilities over the past 12 months, while non-utilities are increasingly realising that lithium-ion or flow storage systems can act as the perfect accompaniment to onsite renewable energy installation. (11)

Paul Massara, former CEO of RWE nPower, is now CEO of North Star Solar, a new solar PV + battery home energy system start-up. He says that lithium ion batteries for electrical storage are getting cheaper and cheaper, and PV + battery packages are now cost effective in the UK with the right financing package. Cheap, ubiquitous electrical energy storage will lead to a very different world and may change the focus of many of today’s energy policy debates. It is likely to help reduce peak demand, and allow renewables to provide a much higher percentage of electricity demand, especially if they are cheaper than alternative forms of low carbon electricity such as nuclear or fossil fuel with carbon capture and storage. (12)

North Star Solar has set up a joint scheme with the former colliery town of Stanley in Co Durham to offer in-home batteries and solar panels for free to all the town’s 35,000 households. Paul Massara says the combination of rooftop panels, a lithium battery and energy-efficient LED light bulbs will immediately cut power bills by 20%. (13)

The £19m ‘Big Battery’ installed at a sub-station in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire has completed a two-year trial and successfully shown that power storage has the potential to be both technically and commercially viable. (14)

Camden Council has teamed up with Islington and Waltham Forest Councils to deliver a pilot programme to test the potential benefits of solar panels and energy storage systems for residents at risk of fuel poverty. The ’24/7 Solar’ initiative is being part-funded by national fuel poverty charity National Energy Action. The aim of the trial is to see if there is evidence that integrated solar and storage technologies can effectively reduce the energy bills of fuel poor households. (15) Meanwhile in Edinburgh and surrounding towns several housing associations have been working with Sunamp to install solar PV and heat storage ‘batteries’. Surplus solar generated electricity can be diverted to the heat battery and used for hot water or central heating when required later. (16) And in Orkney where renewable energy generators are often curtailed due to the constraints on the distribution of electricity around the Orkney grid, yet fuel poverty levels are at 63%, a new project, launched by Heat Smart Orkney Ltd, is aiming to divert unused renewable energy into affordable heat. (17) The Scottish Government has given a new 400-MW pumped-storage hydro power plant in Dumfriesshire permission to go ahead. (18)

Solar power is expected to be the cheapest form of energy (not just electricity) everywhere in the world by around 2030. Cheap solar panels and advances in storage technology are transforming the world. By 2030 or 2040 solar will be the cheapest way to generate electricity, indeed any form of energy EVERYWHERE. The proportion of global electricity provided by solar is likely to grow from 2% now to at least 50% by 2030. We can see the cost of batteries coming down in price dramatically, but turning surplus solar electricity generating during the summer into something we can put into natural gas networks will probably come soon. Generating hydrogen from water and, using microbes, combining it with carbon dioxide to form methane is the simplest way to do this. (19)

Even offshore wind costs are falling. Swedish utility Vattenfall has agreed to build a giant offshore wind farm in Denmark that would sell power for €49.50 per MWh. Vattenfall has broken its own previous record of €60 per MWh. Once the cost of transmission is included this works out at around £75.50/MWh compared with £100.50/MWh for Hinkley Point C (once inflation has been added to the £92.50 at 2012 prices). (20)

December 17, 2016 - Posted by | energy storage, UK

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