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Big and small, to everything in between

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Energy Global,

Juan Matson, Rolls-Royce Solutions America Inc., USA, details the versatility of battery energy storage systems.

With increasing urbanisation and greater demand placed on centralised power grids around the globe, there has been a growing focus on finding affordable, decentralised, and decarbonised power solutions to prevent interruptions, avoid shortages, and ensure power quality. For governments, utilities, commercial building operators, and industries in general, finding the solutions that help them move away from conventional power sources toward reliable and more renewable energies allows them to take control of their energy supply and reach net zero goals. This is where battery energy storage solutions (BESS) play an important role.

BESS are efficient, resilient devices that store electrical energy in rechargeable batteries for use at a later time, either at will or when requested to support peak demand. The result of their integration reduces imbalances between energy demand and production. As a key component for improving reliability across a wide array of applications, BESS enable systems to offer more flexible, dependable, and sustainable power without interruption during instances of unpredictable energy supply or grid overload caused by high demand.

Market research from the Power Systems division of Rolls-Royce has shown that the global storage capacity of installed large scale systems will rise to more than 400 GWh by 2031 – a tenfold increase of the installed capacity in 2022 – according to various public and private sector analyses. BESS solutions will play a large part in helping both utility and demand-side users integrate renewables, reduce peaks, and maximise arbitrage in power markets.

The basics of BESS

In the simplest terms, BESS work by accumulating electricity in electrochemical or mechanical batteries from any distributed power source – such as gensets using any type of fuel, the energy grid, solar panels, or wind turbines. Whenever the need arises, whether during peak power demands or during an interruption such as a power outage, the system will release the stored energy from the battery to provide power for a period of time.

A typical system is comprised of batteries and a power conversion system, often referred to as a BESS string, along with an electrical integration unit composed of step-up transformers and switchgear that creates what is known as a BESS base unit, plus a control system. During charging, the conversion system converts the incoming electrical energy into a suitable form to charge the batteries. Whenever electricity is needed, the control system – which seamlessly integrates available assets and automates control of power generation, storage, and demand – determines the optimal time to discharge stored direct current (DC) energy. Then the power conversion system converts it back into alternating current (AC) energy.

Beyond the ability to store, optimise, and discharge during peak demand, BESS are fully scalable to meet the precise, unique needs of each application, offering users a completely modular, plug-and-play solution. With proper planning to fully define the needed control, integration and scope specifics for each project, the systems can adapt to most use cases with low OPEX.

BESS of all trades

BESS can be used for renewable energy integration, grid stabilisation, and backup power supply across various applications of all sizes, including for utilities, communities, manufacturing locations, agricultural sites, commercial buildings, stores and warehouses, schools, hospitals, hotels, and more.

To simplify, BESS solutions are mainly used across three application scenarios to cover any type of business, industry, or utility:

  • Front-of-meter applications which are integrated into the grid, providing energy to locations that require continuous, large scale, and long-duration power, and improve the renewable integration into the electrical network itself. They help to stabilise the grid by providing frequency regulation and balancing.
  • Behind-the-meter applications that are tied to the grid and directly supply on-site power to individual and medium-to-small scale facilities such as those in the hospitality, commercial business, education, medical, manufacturing, mining, and other sectors that are seeking to optimise power usage and to have a leaner overall electrification strategy.
  • Off-the-meter applications which work independently off the grid and are used for critical backup power during times of grid failure or as optimisers of primary power in remote areas without a present or stable grid. These applications are most often used to support mission critical, commercial, and industrial operations, as well as for municipal, school and healthcare locations.

When used for utility scale energy storage, large scale BESS can be deployed by utilities to store excess energy generated from renewable sources such as solar and wind farms, releasing stored energy during peak demand periods or when renewable generation is low. Some large industrial facilities also use BESS to help regulate their electricity consumption and avoid peak demand charges. In remote areas without access to the grid, or in emergency backup applications, they can be used as a key component of microgrid systems, allowing critical infrastructure centres to stay powered during outages to ensure smooth and continuous operation.

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Energy Global's Winter 2023 issue

The Winter 2023 issue of Energy Global hosts an array of technical articles weather analysis, geothermal solutions, energy storage technology, and more. This issue also features a regional report looking at the future of renewables in North America, and a report from Théodore Reed-Martin, Editorial Assistant, Energy Global, on how Iceland utilises its unique geology for renewable energy.

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