DWIBIN THOMAS Linking batteries with renewable energy unlocks the power to store what is created and dispatch it when there is no sun or wind, keeping the energy flowing
Given the ongoing energy crisis and a global transition towards renewable energy, a significant need for battery energy storage systems (BESSs) has emerged in South Africa as a potential solution to help ease grid constraints.
“Consequently, loadshedding has sparked an uptake in demand for BESS in the commercial, industrial, residential and large utility sectors,” says energy management and automation company Schneider Electric cluster automation director Dwibin Thomas.
BESSs play a crucial role in renewable-energy integration, tying batteries into renewable energy, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) or wind energy, and allow for the renewable energy to be stored when created, and dispatched during periods when energy is not being generated.
Batteries thus make for a smoother integration of power from renewables into the grid, with Thomas adding that BESSs plays a “critical function” in terms of large-scale utility PV plants and wind farms and managing the intermittence of those sources into the grid.
To ensure that BESS is implemented efficiently, he urges developers to consider which technology would best be suited for the relevant application, noting that lithium-ion is one of the most commonly used and widely adopted battery technologies as it offers numerous advantages such as high energy density, long cycle life and good efficiency compared with other battery technologies.
However, it is important to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the project’s needs and consult with experts to determine the best technology for a specific large-scale utility renewables plant.
“While lithium-ion batteries currently excel at storing significant power in a compact space, extensive research and development efforts are under way to explore future technologies and enhance the capability of storing even more power in smaller battery cells,” says Thomas.
With regard to future technologies, he notes that lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) has gained popularity, owing to its inherent safety features, longer cycle life and good performance in high-temperature environments.
LFP also has the potential to provide a life span that is about two to five times longer than other lithium-ion chemistries.
As advancements continue to progress, there are ongoing efforts to scale the size of batteries and enhance their charging capabilities. These developments aim to increase the scalability of LFP and enable faster charging speeds.
Moreover, implementing appropriate software solutions for BESSs can enable users to forecast, schedule and predict energy needs by dispatching stored energy when it is most needed, optimising energy usage and ensuring efficient power management.
If done in real time, these smart solutions can also aid in forecasting energy demand, providing valuable insights for effective energy planning and usage.
“Software solutions have been embraced globally across diverse industries, and their successful deployment can offer a means to mitigate many existing challenges instead of resorting to the construction of new power plants. For example, software can be leveraged for demand response, enabling efficient management of electricity consumption and assisting in providing baseload power when needed. It is imperative to carefully consider the software associated with these solutions as a crucial factor,” Thomas advocates.
However, he contends that South Africa is not adequately deploying the relevant BESSs, despite demand.
Hence, he argues that appointing leaders, such as Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, is necessary to allow for quicker policy implementation by “cutting through the red tape and navigating the bureaucratic procedures and administrative hurdles”.
Schneider Electric strives to offer sustainable energy solutions on a global scale with the objective of promoting the adoption of BESSs and renewable-energy solutions.
“At the core of our mission is sustainability. Our solutions aim to manage how power is consumed, and we assist customers in efficiently managing their power. That’s what drives our technology, and we aim to assist customers in their journey towards achieving greater sustainability,” Thomas concludes.