The new frontiers of energy, thrust wide open by the encounter between technological development and environmental sustainability, include two areas in which research, which has only begun in the last few years, is revealing potential and prospects exceeding the most optimistic expectations: renewable sources and energy storage systems.
Renewable technologies are now growing rapidly and constantly. Even though their global-scale competitive development has only materialised somewhat recently – just 7-8 years ago they were still generically called 'alternative sources' – they have given rise to the transformation of the whole energy sector. On the other hand, the so-called storage systems have been at the centre of industrial-scale evolving projects in areas other than electricity generation, such as telecommunications (batteries for smartphones and tablets) and transport (electric cars), but are also now starting to show their full potential for applications within the energy supply chain, from generation to consumption. The combination of these two groundbreaking innovations, achieved by integrating storage systems into renewable plants, can result in an impressive acceleration of the transition towards the new energy model that is emerging across the world.
"The storage revolution that can speed the rise of renewables" is the title of the article published on The Guardian within the editorial partnership with Enel, specifically focused on new technologies applied to the energy world to achieve sustainable development and widespread access to electricity. And the article on the British paper analyses potential, prospects and projects of this cutting-edge combination within the global scenario, also reporting Enel's contribution in this field in Europe and Latin America.
Enel is carrying out two projects aimed to test solutions and technologies that will enable the integration of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS), the two future pillars of clean and sustainable energy. In Chile Enel Green Power has launched the Ollagüe project, named after the village in Antofagasta region in which it is located. This project involves a storage system that, integrated into a wind-solar hybrid plant, ensures round-the-clock access to electricity to the inhabitants of this small centre, which is isolated from the distribution grid. In Italy, Active RES into the grid involves two projects centring on storage launched in April 2015 by Enel Green Power in Catania (Sicily) and Potenza Pietragalla (Basilicata): the former integrates storage into a solar field, the latter into a wind farm, in order to assess how these systems can compensate the unpredictability these two sources. The two projects in Italy enable verification of the benefits of storage in so-called electricity 'dispatching', both regarding the possibility of storing power when the source is most abundant – making it subsequently available when there is a lack of sun and wind - and the interaction of storage facilities with the grid.
Partnerships with various storage system manufacturers including General Electric, Samsung, FIAMM, Toshiba and Tesla demonstrate to what extent Enel Green Power focuses on identifying the most efficient storage solutions while increasing the amount of knowledge and expertise in this field. In fact, combining RES and BESS means achieving what up to a few years ago was considered almost an utopian dream and is now becoming a reality. Being able to store energy means successfully responding to the need for a sustainable use of resources and avoiding the waste of increasingly valuable 'raw materials' such as sun and wind, which are set to drive the low-carbon economy of the future.