Grid scale Energy Storage is Commercially Feasible and Cheaper than the Polish Plan
Yesterday, Gramwzielone in Poland posted an article on the first commercial grid scale energy storage project to go in operation in Germany. The Schwerin local power company Wemag is starting operations on a 5 MW magnesium ion battery storage system. The technology is from the United States, acquired by the purchase of the American company Xtreme Power. Because of its response time and its ability to make a contribution to both the top and the bottom of the energy demand curve, the supplier "Younicos ensures that energy storage with a capacity of 5 MW will provide the same stabilization of the network as a conventional power plant with a capacity of 50 MW. "
This result can be expected given the studies of the cost-effectiveness of energy storage versus the use of entire power plants as "peakers" - just operating during the times of peak demand. See EPRI California Study. Some slides from Janice Lin's presentation at the Third Annual Energy Storage International Conference last March 23-24, illustrate the points very well:
This "multiplier effect" helps make energy storage more cost effective than traditional fossil fuel "peakers." As the mix of renewable energy in the total share of electricity increases, the value of storage also goes up, while the cost-effectiveness of fossil fuel peakers goes down (the reason why some brand new coal-fired plants in Western Europe have been closed and written off by their owners). The trend toward renewable energy (mandated by Brussels) simply adds to the otherwise advantage of energy storage as moire cost-effective.
The higher utilization rate of energy storage at the grid level also improves its cost-effectiveness over traditional fossil fuel peakers. See above.
Possibly the greatest benefit for Poland to consider, since we have invested so heavily in coal-fired plants, is that grid level energy storage actually increases the utilization rate of the base-load fossil fuel plants improving their profitability:
The total benefits of grid level energy storage make it cost-effective under a variety of assumptions. See EPRI study. Virtually all storage technologies had a positive cost-benefit result.
Despite these facts, Poland seems on a course to try to create the back up power capacity for peak loads by using old coal-fired plants. This plan has superficial appeal in that is supposes use of existing coal fired capacity, but the plants in question are illegal to operate under EU law after 2015 (having used up their grandfathered grace period). The net cost to customers seems to be higher under this proposal, assuming it was legal, than relying on energy storage (which can also be implemented much faster on the ground). The cost of keeping old coal plants online and "ramping them up" solely to meet peak demand is extremely high to end-users. All options ought to be considered by the Polish Government before committing to any plan to meet peak demand loads in the future.
Polish Energy Storage Association
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Thanks to Janice Lin at Strategen and the California Energy Storage Alliance for the slides and their inspired leadership on this issue!