Solar plus energy storage may become a viable solution for managing peak loads

Energy storage technologies can be a game-changer for India’s electric grid and transportation sector. The current size of the energy storage segment in India is estimated at over 15 GWh which is expected to grow by 12% to 15% year on year. According to the Indian Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) estimates, India has the potential to integrate over 300 GWh of energy storage during 2018-25. This includes existing applications such as backup power but also newer applications like wind and solar integration, frequency regulation, peak management, transmission and distribution deferral, diesel replacement and electric vehicles. In recent months, various tenders by SECI, BESCOM, NTPC, NLC, CEL, GEDA and others were floated in states of Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. 

In order to know more about India’s burgeoning energy storage market and its direct relationship with EV penetration in India, we spoke to Debi Prasad Dash – Executive Director, India Energy Storage Alliance. Here are some excerpts from the discussion:

Debi Prasad Dash – ED, IESA

EVR: In your opinion, what should be the direction of battery research in India, specifically for EV applications?

India has a huge market for conventional technologies like lead-acid. With a high life cycle, high efficiency and stiff price reduction, Li-Ion is giving tough competition to current lead-acid technologies. Over the years, Li-ion batteries have evolved from LCO, LMO, LFP, NCA, NMC and emerging technologies like LTO, Li-Air and Li-Sulphur. Other technologies like flow batteries (VRB, ZBR), Sodium based battery, Zinc –Air are also emerging applications.

Indian Institutions like Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI) have already developed indigenous Li-ion cell for energy storage demand in electric vehicle and grid-scale RE- integration projects. ISRO already shortlisted 10 companies for cell manufacturing technology transfer. With the impending launch of NITI Aayog’s National Mission for Battery Manufacturing, India is looking to target 50GWh of annual cell production capacity.

In the case of EVs, energy density is important than battery cycle life. Electric vehicle manufacturers have chosen Li-ion as a preferred technology due to higher energy and power density. At the same time, India has also seen large scale utilization of lead-acid batteries for e-Rickshaws. 

One of the challenges for EVs in India is the higher temperatures and thus, there is a focus for research on batteries with higher temperature tolerance as well.”

EVR: The government had set targets to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. Though that target seems elusive, our clean energy production is still growing. What steps can be taken to maximize the grid integration of renewable energy to make the EVs even cleaner?

Energy storage technologies can provide an array of services to the modern grid such as peak load management, grid balancing and renewable energy integration. Historically, storage systems such as pumped hydro were deployed for energy arbitrage; however, emerging distributed energy storage technologies are currently used in many other areas such as grid balancing and renewable energy integration in addition to energy arbitrage. 

Energy Storage is a key component of this and there are a number of ways in which EV adoption could be transformative for the grid. Firstly, EVs could present a substantial load for the electric grid. Secondly, with better tariff structures and use of right storage technologies in EVs, we could also use EVs as distributed storage and provide grid balancing services. This transformation can also help not only in greening the transportation fleet by reducing diesel/petrol consumption and associated emissions but can also help in greening the grid if EVs are used for better integration of renewable resources in the grid.

With technology becoming affordable, we need Renewable Energy developers to explore new business models and start deploying hybrid projects that can help India capture the true potential of renewable energy in India.

EVR: Energy Storage Systems integrated with solar energy generation can potentially play a huge part in meeting the energy needs of rural areas. Can you suggest a roadmap for making this happen?

Solar + Storage is anticipated to become a viable solution for managing peak loads within the next 12-18 months. In the future, as there is an enforcement in grid discipline with penalties for deviations, energy storage will prove to be a valuable asset in grid integration by smoothing the intermittencies and provide ancillary services for improving the reliability of the Indian grid.

India is a pioneer in rural microgrid since the 1990s, and in the past 5 years, India has done significant progress for achieving energy access for all citizens. IESA launched the MICRO (Microgrid Initiative for Campus and Rural Opportunities) in 2016 with a goal of improving the economic sustainability of microgrids in India. This initiative has been selected by USAID as one of the innovative clean energy projects under PaceSetter Fund and European Space Agency has partnered with IESA to explore the role of space-based tools and satellite data for improving microgrids in India. It addresses the fundamental challenges faced by the developers and funding agencies by creating an ecosystem to make micro-grids viable and efficient.

EVR: Can you share any examples of projects in India or internationally that present a good case for using energy storage solutions for the betterment of community and environment?

Across the world, in the past 10 years large hybrid projects are done which includes a 98MW wind power generation plant located in Belington by AES Laurel Mountain with an 8 MWh grid energy storage solution. ECoult – Australia (Kings Island) uses a 3MW/1.6MWh Ultra Battery Storage system, French renewable energy developer Neoen won approval in early 2018 for its third wind farm and battery storage project, near Cairns in far north Queensland. In 2017, it switched on the 100MW/129MWh Tesla battery that sits next to the 309MW Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia.

About IESA: IESA was launched in 2012 to promote energy storage and microgrid technologies in India. Since then, the IESA network has grown rapidly and currently has 90+ members who are exploring opportunities for energy storage, microgrids and EVs. Members include a good mix of energy storage technology providers, power conversion system providers, system integrations, project developers, EV, battery manufacturers, potential investors as well as research institutions. Aim of IESA’s Knowledge Partner Network (KPN) network is to help members understand the various energy storage technologies, business applications and intertwined policy/regulatory issues. The alliance is working towards making India a global hub for R&D and manufacturing of advanced energy storage technologies by 2022.

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