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Electrical Energy Storage with Batteries: Technologies and Applications

What are the main types of batteries, and in what context are they used?

Oil & Gas

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The Battery Energy Storage System (SAE), also called BESS ( Battery Energy Storage System), is an important asset to meet the challenges of the energy transition process that we are living, in which countries all over the planet seek carbon neutrality. More than that, the SAE has great value in minimising the intermittency of renewable energies such as solar and wind, and for this reason it has become compulsory by law in some regions, such as California in the USA.

The electricity system in Brazil is moving towards the expansion of the use of renewable energy. As this use expands in the SIN (National Interconnected System), the need to use SAE will also grow.

For many years there were concerns regarding safety in the use of batteries, but today it can be said that the mastery of technology makes them a safe resource, even being the target of large investments around the world.

Application of SAE

SAE can be implemented in electrical grids of all sizes and will serve several functions across the entire electric power chain: generation, transmission, distribution, with consumers and on/off-grid, with the goal of increasing power reliability, as well as its quality and financial return. Another utility of SAE is the reduction of social damage generated by energy shortages. Storing energy means using energy at times of utmost importance in our favour, intelligently orchestrating this valuable resource.  

As environmental agendas grow across the globe, it is estimated that generators and distributors will further engage with sustainable development goals, especially SDG 7 (clean and affordable energy) and SDG 3 (health and well-being), seeking improvements for consumers as grid decentralisation advances.

Some benefits of using SAE

  1. In the operation of electrical systems, it is common to have frequency disturbances of short duration, which can be mitigated through rotating reserves, which require supplementary energy. For operational guarantee of the systems, it is common to use energy from thermal power plants, and such plants are used even in times of peak energy demand. The storage of energy by the SAEs, however, can work as a complement or even substitute for thermal plants, providing stability and flexibility to the system
  2. In transmission and distribution networks, SAEs have other benefits: the improvement of network performance through the relief of occasional overloads, the improvement of power quality through better voltage regulation and the mitigation of intermittency of renewable sources
  3. SAEs can contribute to reduce the high rates of power outages in Brazil, one of the countries that most suffers from this problem, minimizing the frequency and duration of blackouts of critical loads in industries, public sectors or businesses. Power outages cause financial losses and production losses proportional to their resumption time, in addition to incurring fines and environmental impacts depending on the system energized
  4. In on/off-grid systems, it is common to use diesel generators for long periods. Stand-by generators, however, take minutes to attend to power reliability problems, while batteries can take around 16ms, and this speed can be decisive in some cases. Thus the use of batteries can not only mean a more efficient alternative, but also a saving in diesel consumption, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing costs and noise
  5. The increase in demand makes large investments in substations and transmission lines necessary, but the use of batteries can help to postpone or reduce these investments, even when used in combination with solar energy in hybrid form
  6. The use of batteries also makes it possible to minimise peak and off-peak contracted demands, which eliminates overcharging fines and consequently reduces the costs of the energy bill

Take a look at the interesting chart from Rock Mountaim Institute: in it, we can see the contribution and benefits of SAE in 3 basic sectors: in transmission, distribution, and before the meter, with industries and in renewable energy generation.

Battery technologies

Batteries have different chemical profiles: we can mention LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate), NMC (Nickel Manganese Cobalt), NaS (Sodium Sulphur) and Redox Flow (Vanadium, Fe, Zn-Br) batteries. The choice of a particular profile depends on the needs of each project, taking into account factors such as power, charge/discharge time and grid application, among others. Selecting the product that best adapts to a given project is of utmost importance, and the levels of cooling and instantaneous overloads informed by the manufacturer must always be respected.

LFP chemical batteries are generally used in short charge and discharge cycles, and are therefore more suitable for load levelling and frequency regulation. LiFePO4 batteries, in turn, are generally used in average cycles lasting between 1 to 4 hours: they are used to replace generators and UPS/backup, doing end-to-end mitigation. NaS batteries are also generally used in average cycles of 1 to 4 hours, but in applications of frequency regulation and load levelling.

The chemical batteries listed above are encapsulated and usually arranged in racks inside a container with air conditioning, also integrating the set the battery management element, called BMS, the element that makes the conversion DC into AC, called PCS, the synchronism key, protections and auxiliary systems, such as fire fighting. The interconnection of these batteries to the grid should be made with trafos, protections, meters, EMS hardware and the development of its own software. They have a maximum useful life of 15 years and must be used correctly to prevent them from degrading quickly.

Besides the use of container or electrocenter to group the above equipment, there is also the possibility of using batteries in panels at IP67 time of 327,5kWh, with the BMS, the fire suppressor and the liquid cooled type chiller (glycol + water). By saving expenses with the use of air conditioning and enclosures, this type of use reduces the average price of energy (R$/Wh).

On the other hand, flow batteries have cycles longer than 4 hours (lasting up to days) and are used in offgrid-24x7 systems, p-fp mitigation and peak shaving, besides load levelling, frequency regulation and generator replacement. These batteries do not require air conditioning and do not show great degradation, since there are no chemical reactions, but only electrolyte electron exchange in aqueous solution. The stored energy capacity (MWh) of flow batteries is determined by the capacity of the tanks, and the value of the maximum power delivered (MW) to the grid is established by the flow of the electrolyte circulation pumps, PCS and the cell. They are batteries that have a longer useful life (up to 25 years).

More than having this information, however, in order to work with SAE applications it is necessary to have an advanced knowledge in electrical systems, because the success of the project depends on interconnecting the SAE to the grid with step-up transformers, protection switches, meters and hardware, also using software development and artificial intelligence.

Points of attention

  1. When sizing batteries, their degradation must be taken into account, it is necessary to consider the losses in the container, the depth of discharge, the temperature and the chemical performance of the batteries until the end of their useful life
  2. The advertised prices of SAEs in the Brazilian media may mask some important details, such as import costs, information on product quality and on the application of the turn-key solution
  3. NCM technology must be used with criteria because there is a risk of explosion. You should avoid using it for higher powers and never use low quality products, either for the batteries themselves or for the BMS (its control electronics). If you choose a high standard battery and cheap electronics, for example, a fault in these electronics can cause a short circuit and a consequent destruction on scale. Both products, therefore, must be top of the line, and price can never be a sole criterion for choice
  4. Tips for the mitigation of embaterial risks: 
  • use LFP cells with international transport safety certifications to avoid risks of self-ignition, fire or explosion
  • in situations where transport is required, ship the cells individually in high quality shipping containers and packages, without any electronics added or hard wire attached to the cells during transport
  • the solutions should preferably be fully modular, being assembled at the final installation site with robust engineering to avoid the risks and failures of eventual defective products
  • do not buy products from non-state-of-the-art suppliers

Context and Challenges

Conclusion

Besides the examples of applications cited above, we can highlight that fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) are responsible for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil, so that SAEs can contribute to minimize these impacts both in an isolated way as well as hybrid, if associated with renewable energies, biomass and biofuels.

Battery costs are declining exponentially, and the normalisation of the dollar against the real should make these applications much more attractive, which could further leverage their use in industry, commerce and the grid, especially as SAE knowledge expands.

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Nicolau Bittencourt

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Electrical Energy Storage with Batteries: Technologies and Applications

What are the main types of batteries, and in what context are they used?

August 13, 2021

published by

Business and Energy

Nicolau Bittencourt

The Battery Energy Storage System (SAE), also called BESS ( Battery Energy Storage System), is an important asset to meet the challenges of the energy transition process that we are living, in which countries all over the planet seek carbon neutrality. More than that, the SAE has great value in minimising the intermittency of renewable energies such as solar and wind, and for this reason it has become compulsory by law in some regions, such as California in the USA.

The electricity system in Brazil is moving towards the expansion of the use of renewable energy. As this use expands in the SIN (National Interconnected System), the need to use SAE will also grow.

For many years there were concerns regarding safety in the use of batteries, but today it can be said that the mastery of technology makes them a safe resource, even being the target of large investments around the world.

Application of SAE

SAE can be implemented in electrical grids of all sizes and will serve several functions across the entire electric power chain: generation, transmission, distribution, with consumers and on/off-grid, with the goal of increasing power reliability, as well as its quality and financial return. Another utility of SAE is the reduction of social damage generated by energy shortages. Storing energy means using energy at times of utmost importance in our favour, intelligently orchestrating this valuable resource.  

As environmental agendas grow across the globe, it is estimated that generators and distributors will further engage with sustainable development goals, especially SDG 7 (clean and affordable energy) and SDG 3 (health and well-being), seeking improvements for consumers as grid decentralisation advances.

Some benefits of using SAE

  1. In the operation of electrical systems, it is common to have frequency disturbances of short duration, which can be mitigated through rotating reserves, which require supplementary energy. For operational guarantee of the systems, it is common to use energy from thermal power plants, and such plants are used even in times of peak energy demand. The storage of energy by the SAEs, however, can work as a complement or even substitute for thermal plants, providing stability and flexibility to the system
  2. In transmission and distribution networks, SAEs have other benefits: the improvement of network performance through the relief of occasional overloads, the improvement of power quality through better voltage regulation and the mitigation of intermittency of renewable sources
  3. SAEs can contribute to reduce the high rates of power outages in Brazil, one of the countries that most suffers from this problem, minimizing the frequency and duration of blackouts of critical loads in industries, public sectors or businesses. Power outages cause financial losses and production losses proportional to their resumption time, in addition to incurring fines and environmental impacts depending on the system energized
  4. In on/off-grid systems, it is common to use diesel generators for long periods. Stand-by generators, however, take minutes to attend to power reliability problems, while batteries can take around 16ms, and this speed can be decisive in some cases. Thus the use of batteries can not only mean a more efficient alternative, but also a saving in diesel consumption, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing costs and noise
  5. The increase in demand makes large investments in substations and transmission lines necessary, but the use of batteries can help to postpone or reduce these investments, even when used in combination with solar energy in hybrid form
  6. The use of batteries also makes it possible to minimise peak and off-peak contracted demands, which eliminates overcharging fines and consequently reduces the costs of the energy bill

Take a look at the interesting chart from Rock Mountaim Institute: in it, we can see the contribution and benefits of SAE in 3 basic sectors: in transmission, distribution, and before the meter, with industries and in renewable energy generation.

Battery technologies

Batteries have different chemical profiles: we can mention LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate), NMC (Nickel Manganese Cobalt), NaS (Sodium Sulphur) and Redox Flow (Vanadium, Fe, Zn-Br) batteries. The choice of a particular profile depends on the needs of each project, taking into account factors such as power, charge/discharge time and grid application, among others. Selecting the product that best adapts to a given project is of utmost importance, and the levels of cooling and instantaneous overloads informed by the manufacturer must always be respected.

LFP chemical batteries are generally used in short charge and discharge cycles, and are therefore more suitable for load levelling and frequency regulation. LiFePO4 batteries, in turn, are generally used in average cycles lasting between 1 to 4 hours: they are used to replace generators and UPS/backup, doing end-to-end mitigation. NaS batteries are also generally used in average cycles of 1 to 4 hours, but in applications of frequency regulation and load levelling.

The chemical batteries listed above are encapsulated and usually arranged in racks inside a container with air conditioning, also integrating the set the battery management element, called BMS, the element that makes the conversion DC into AC, called PCS, the synchronism key, protections and auxiliary systems, such as fire fighting. The interconnection of these batteries to the grid should be made with trafos, protections, meters, EMS hardware and the development of its own software. They have a maximum useful life of 15 years and must be used correctly to prevent them from degrading quickly.

Besides the use of container or electrocenter to group the above equipment, there is also the possibility of using batteries in panels at IP67 time of 327,5kWh, with the BMS, the fire suppressor and the liquid cooled type chiller (glycol + water). By saving expenses with the use of air conditioning and enclosures, this type of use reduces the average price of energy (R$/Wh).

On the other hand, flow batteries have cycles longer than 4 hours (lasting up to days) and are used in offgrid-24x7 systems, p-fp mitigation and peak shaving, besides load levelling, frequency regulation and generator replacement. These batteries do not require air conditioning and do not show great degradation, since there are no chemical reactions, but only electrolyte electron exchange in aqueous solution. The stored energy capacity (MWh) of flow batteries is determined by the capacity of the tanks, and the value of the maximum power delivered (MW) to the grid is established by the flow of the electrolyte circulation pumps, PCS and the cell. They are batteries that have a longer useful life (up to 25 years).

More than having this information, however, in order to work with SAE applications it is necessary to have an advanced knowledge in electrical systems, because the success of the project depends on interconnecting the SAE to the grid with step-up transformers, protection switches, meters and hardware, also using software development and artificial intelligence.

Points of attention

  1. When sizing batteries, their degradation must be taken into account, it is necessary to consider the losses in the container, the depth of discharge, the temperature and the chemical performance of the batteries until the end of their useful life
  2. The advertised prices of SAEs in the Brazilian media may mask some important details, such as import costs, information on product quality and on the application of the turn-key solution
  3. NCM technology must be used with criteria because there is a risk of explosion. You should avoid using it for higher powers and never use low quality products, either for the batteries themselves or for the BMS (its control electronics). If you choose a high standard battery and cheap electronics, for example, a fault in these electronics can cause a short circuit and a consequent destruction on scale. Both products, therefore, must be top of the line, and price can never be a sole criterion for choice
  4. Tips for the mitigation of embaterial risks: 
  • use LFP cells with international transport safety certifications to avoid risks of self-ignition, fire or explosion
  • in situations where transport is required, ship the cells individually in high quality shipping containers and packages, without any electronics added or hard wire attached to the cells during transport
  • the solutions should preferably be fully modular, being assembled at the final installation site with robust engineering to avoid the risks and failures of eventual defective products
  • do not buy products from non-state-of-the-art suppliers

Conclusion

Besides the examples of applications cited above, we can highlight that fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) are responsible for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil, so that SAEs can contribute to minimize these impacts both in an isolated way as well as hybrid, if associated with renewable energies, biomass and biofuels.

Battery costs are declining exponentially, and the normalisation of the dollar against the real should make these applications much more attractive, which could further leverage their use in industry, commerce and the grid, especially as SAE knowledge expands.

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