Building the Future with Energy Storage

Published on Friday, 7 August 2015

Over the last few years the energy world has had to completely rethink itself, choosing the path of the radical transformation that was opened by the incursion of socalled "new renewables" into the consolidated model built in a century of development of traditional sources. But in times marked by novelties and speed, change has almost become a daily practice and generation technologies from renewable resources are no longer liable to play an exclusive role as promising new entries revolutionizing the status quo.

The level of competitiveness achieved by solar and wind power has assigned a front line, enduring role to renewables. Not that this precocious maturity has made them 'old'. Only a few years ago they were generically defined as alternative sources and within the energy scenario they have rapidly become Oscar-winning supporting actresses, to use a metaphor from the movie world. Today this role seems to belong to another 'type' of energy, that is not generated but stored. In fact, the attention of the entire sector is now catalysed by energy storage systems, to which many entrust a role even more revolutionary than that played by renewables in the recent past.

Enel has pursued the path of storage for many years, launching, starting from 2010 in Italy and Spain, the assessment and testing of the various solutions, which have led to the profiling of 13 different technologies, the mapping the main 'families' of energy storage devices already available on the market, transforming this extensive experimentation work into industrial-scale pilot projects, for more than 21 MW of storage systems already installed or under construction, covering three different lines of activity:

  • energy storage on islands and in off-grid applications;
  • the integration of storage systems into renewable generation plants;
  • the integration of centralised storage systems into the distribution grid.

In the Chilean desert, on the Canary islands and at EXPO 2015 Enel's storage projects, used to integrate renewables into the electricity distribution systems for the efficient grid management, are growing with the aim of rapidly achieving scale replicability, with the awareness that the ability to store electricity results in greater system efficiency and better grid and plant performances, with benefits for both producers and consumers.

Innovation is relentless and boundless and this principle in the 2.0 age seems to find a striking confirmation in the development of storage. Integration with renewable plants and distribution grids is the cutting-edge front line of storage systems, but not the most visionary nor the latest. In fact, a quick glance at ongoing tests and experimentation shows that storage technologies are also applied for domestic use and for turning electric cars into moving 'batteries', capable of injecting electricity into the grid as well as drawing it. It's too soon to predict the imminent future of storable energy. The future certainly appears promising along the many development paths already undertaken by Enel.