In 2018, I got an inquiry from a customer regarding a peak shaving system for an industrial project in the north of Germany. Along with the offer I sent for his requested service, I tried to sell the black start capability as well within the solution. The customer’s reply was simple, is it free of cost? If not, then additional capabilities are not required, and he has no interest in it!
In March 2020, I received again a call from the same customer, but this time everything had changed. Our conversation, after the formal greetings, went something like this:
Project Developer: Actually, we have a big ESS project in our pipeline for Ireland, and we want to make it exemplary.
Me: Do you mean considering lowest price, LCOE and LCOS?
Project Developer: Hmmmm. (A small pause) Yes, and no! We want our project to be extremely flexible, usable for multiple applications, versatile, moveable, extendable, durable and with good Ables. Oh and also economical!
My client’s new-found fascination with flexibility is now the desire, approach, and goal of every new ESS project developer. And in my opinion totally reasonable and achievable. In a matter of just two years the whole market has changed. Today’s customer has many times more knowledge than the equipment manufacturer. The customer has a distinct vision, how they can use the ESS in a versatile way with maximum investment security.
This decade is dedicated to energy storage. After every few months, we hear about new storage technology that has some good potential to conquer the complete ESS market. These periodic announcements on one side are great for the R&D but at the same time put a cloud of horror on top of already operating ESS projects.
A typical ESS project is designed and estimated to work for 10 to 15 years. However, the services it is supposed to provide are profitable for only a few months or in good cases, up to two to three years. After that, either the market gets saturated and very low income can be expected or the policy makers introduce a new grid service with a more promising payback time! Furthermore, there are also chances that in the next few years, technologies like flow batteries and hydrogen production will become more viable and present a better business case.
Hence, keeping in mind all the above-mentioned scenarios it makes sense that the ESS should have maximum flexibility, at least on the PCS and EMS side.
What does flexibility mean for ESS?
- ESS should be very adaptable on the software side and should also have the best hardware specifications i.e. the PCS software should be capable of performing the maximum number of Class A, Class B and Class C applications with state of the art and flexible EMS. Simultaneously, the hardware should allow seamless addition or substitution of batteries coming from different manufacturers and of different chemistries. This can easily be achieved by using multi-source hybrid inverter technologies with DC-DC inverter extension options.
- The PCS should have a wide DC voltage range suitable for both low voltage and high voltage storage integrations
- Relocation friendly e.g. Plug-and-Play containerized solutions at MV with a flexible HVAC design for hot and cold climates
- In the project planning phase, all possibilities of battery size extension should be examined i.e. how much more storage could be integrated if required after a few years?
- In case of warranty issues, ESS design should have flexibility to accommodate extra hardware at minimum cost e.g. adding new battery strings without bothering the already installed system.
- Space for implementing all possible fire safety topology and related equipment in future
- Possibilities of integrating hydrogen electrolysers and EV charging infrastructure integration
ESS projects for this decade are like a swiss army knife for the grid. The more functions they can perform, keeping the same footprint and cost, the better, more versatile, and successful they are.
Ahmed Zahoor is a Business Development Manager at FREQCON GmbH, Germany. He has an in-depth multi-segment exposure and experience of today’s renewable energy, smart grid, microgrids, energy storage, EV and hybrid energy market. FREQCON is a leading German engineering and manufacturing company of multi-source hybrid inverters and energy management systems (EMS) for on-grid and off-grid systems. They provide turnkey solutions for battery energy storage systems (BESS) for all C&I and Utility Grid applications.
If you want to know more about this and other topics directly from end users of energy storage technologies join us at one of these annual events: The Energy Storage World Forum (Grid Scale Applications), or The Residential Energy Storage Forum, or one of our Training Courses.