Storage, the New Frontier in Renewable Energy

Published on Thursday, 14 May 2015

In recent decades the efficiency of renewables plants has increased at a remarkable rate. In a recent report, the United Nations environmental programme UNEP, announced that the global renewable generating capacity broke the 100 GW barrier in 2014. Nevertheless, a key element must be developed and used on a large scale in order to complete the “green revolution” and gradually replace traditional generation: energy storage systems, which can manage the reduced programmability of most renewable sources.

Storage is a key element in the collection of surplus energy at peak times, which is then injected onto the grid when sources such as wind or solar are not able to generate energy. In such a way, energy production from typically intermittent sources becomes predictable, allowing energy flow management in the electrical grid.
The issue was discussed in the eighth edition of the Energy Storage World Forum in Rome, where experts from the sector met to analyse the status and development of new systems and technologies. A vast number of representatives from the Enel Group  were present , confirming its internationally recognized leadership since 2008, when the Group began studying the first models to solve problems related to the power grid's stability. ”With an increased distributed generation, the grid will require a more dynamic and flexible management. Storage is the first system that can meet these needs. This will require the use of batteries that are able to intervene quickly, activating within tenths of a second” explained Christian Noce (Enel Distribuzione), who coordinated a work group within the Forum to create a common framework to assess the overall performance of all storage systems.

There are different types of storage: electrochemical, pumped and flywheel storage systems. Enel has a wide expertise in renewable energy storage plants and has launched projects in different areas of Italy and Spain (Malaga and the Canary Islands). The first electrochemical storage system, located in  Ollague (Chile), has recently become operational, coupled with Enel Green Power's hybrid power generation plant. Thanks to the system, a remote mining village is directly powered with energy supplied exclusively from renewable sources (solar PV and small wind turbines).

"Storage can solve severe power problems, especially in developing countries with weak power grids and an abundance of renewable sources. The challenge that we face is to reduce the cost of batteries and the study of a system that more easily adapts to the different places in which they are installed", said Alessandro Quadrelli from Enel Research on the sidelines of the event.