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Paving the pathway towards net zero future battery energy storage systems

Battery energy storage systems to accelerate net zero transition

Through our partnership with the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), we unlocked the potential of hybrid battery technology to maximise value for organisations whilst benefiting the environment.

Energy storage is one of the key technologies that will decarbonise our electricity grid and energy systems. There is growing interest among utilities, end-users, grid operators and regulators to implement battery energy storage systems. The attractiveness of storage is fuelled by a variety of benefits that range from improving reliability and resilience, to integrating with low-carbon generation sources, to ensuring a more flexible and robust power grid that can better accommodate unplanned outages and integrate more distributed renewable energy resources.

Storage technology is predicted to become more affordable for both grid-scale and commercial and industrial (C&I) applications, enabling more organisations to make this technology an integral part of their energy strategy. Battery energy storage systems – especially when paired with on-site generation technologies like solar photovoltaic (PV) systems – deliver supply, price and carbon certainty. Integrated solutions like solar and storage help organisations accelerate their decarbonisation journey whilst taking control of their energy costs, especially during peak price times. For example, in the United States, studies are indicating a huge growth opportunity in solar and storage solutions as organisations realise the potential of this technology pairing, with installations expected to grow from 5% in 2019 to more than 25% in 2025, a massive growth in adoption.

Energy storage will also be a key enabler to electrify transport and respond to challenges that will arise as electric vehicle (EV) adoption increases. Growth in the EV market requires additional capacity from the grid, which will be challenging, especially during peak demand times. Providing energy storage near EV charging stations relieves pressure from the grid – and can even maximise the utilisation of local renewable sources.

Sustainability challenges with battery energy storage systems

There are quite a number of commercially available storage technologies, but the current dominating technology is Li-Ion batteries. Even with the predicted cost reduction of this storage technology, Li-Ion may still not be a cost-effective solution for many stationary energy storage use cases.

Battery energy storage systems are usually designed for either short or long duration and for high-energy or high-power applications. Batteries are typically built for their intended use, so today, it is a challenge to design cost-effective battery energy storage systems that can serve multiple uses – such as providing energy during peak price times, maximising the value of intermittent renewable energy, providing ancillary services to the electric grid, or providing backup power.

An example of a battery built for a specific use is a vehicle battery, which now presents an issue as EV adoption grows. The amount of used vehicle batteries is increasing rapidly alongside the growth in EV adoption. Used batteries are being stored in warehouses, and issues with recycling inefficiencies are providing challenges from an electronic waste perspective.

What if these batteries could be repurposed to yield a cost-effective, more environmentally sustainable solution?

Partnering with NREL to deliver hybrid battery energy storage systems

Centrica Business Solutions is committed to innovation and paving a pathway towards building net-zero future energy systems. In addition to our world-leading distributed energy solutions that enable our customers to balance the economics and environmental challenges of business sustainability, we also collaborate with prestigious associations, industry leaders and external research entities across the globe for longer-term innovation.

One example is our partnership with NREL, the national laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy and its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

In 2019, Centrica Business Solutions announced a partnership with NREL to study the integration of several energy storage technologies to solve challenges around the lack of flexibility and sustainability around single-use battery types. Research was conducted at NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), where innovative technologies are developed to tackle major challenges facing our energy systems.

This project revealed that there is untapped potential when battery types are combined and optimally controlled. Advanced optimisation and control algorithms were developed to maximise the return from a combination of a high power Li-Ion battery, a high energy Li-Ion battery and – even more interestingly – a second-life battery unit made from used vehicle battery cells. This provided us with an opportunity to repurpose vehicle batteries into stationary storage, giving them a second life to yield environmental benefits and minimise electronic waste.

This collaboration with NREL resulted in a design tool, named HYBrid Robust Energy Storage Design (HYBRED). It consists of a sizing tool that aims to right-size the solution for the customer and control algorithms that dispatch the batteries for maximum benefit.

Hybrid energy storage opens the promise of using battery energy storage systems cost-effectively and for multiple applications. This research expands the possible combinations of energy storage technologies that can increase the affordability and sustainability of the technology and help the grid by providing resilient, efficient power. These second-life batteries, though retired from their original applications, can be a cost-effective storage solution when repurposed and combined with other storage technologies. This project demonstrated that with more advanced optimisation algorithms, we can significantly increase the overall ROI of battery energy storage systems by using hybrid battery technology to tackle multiple revenue streams.

This project was selected by the Department of Energy as a High Impact Project developing new capabilities at ESIF for national scale impact. You can learn more about it by watching the below video.