As countries around the world strive for growing energy independence, innovative technologies, particularly in the electrical sector with the increasing importance of energy storage and batteries, are set to revolutionise how energy is distributed.
Potentially, this advancement could become the catalyst to change the geopolitical landscape of the world. We have already seen the devastation caused to OPEC when oil prices dropped below $40 a barrel earlier this year and with investment into batteries and energy storage, nations will be demanding fewer resources such as oil and natural gas.
Dr. Alex Mardapittas, Managing Director Powerstar and inventor of the Virtue energy storage system discusses how using this new form of technology can revolutionise the way in which energy is distributed in developing ‘Smart City’ infrastructures.
As more cities across the world start to develop ‘infrastructures and more products and services become integrated, the definition of a Smart City continues to adapt.
In the UK a Smart City is best described by Government Department of Business, Innovation and Skills that states it is, “A process by which cities become more ‘liveable’ and are able to respond quicker to new challenges. It brings together hard infrastructure, social capital and digital technologies to fuel sustainable economic development and provide an attractive environment for all.”
From this definition it is clear that a Smart City is not, as many might have you believe, simply about digital connectivity or the ‘Internet of Things’ but much more. Crucially, a Smart City incorporates hard infrastructure, including; systems that control the flow of traffic, water recycling schemes and refuse collection monitors, amongst many other things. A Smart City will also respond more quickly to new challenges and improve the way we live; this includes the supply of energy to homes and businesses within local communities.
Microgrids – smart energy supply
A specific advancement in the area of energy management in Smart Cities is through the proliferation of microgrids. As the name suggests a microgrid is a smaller version of the national energy grid, the main difference being that the microgrid is powered by energy sources, including renewable, that match power with local demand rather than national demand.
Energy storage systems, such as the Powerstar Virtue, that capture energy and store it for later use, are emerging as technologies that can increase the local management of the future microgrid electricity network across the UK; ensuring energy is delivered effectively and efficiently at a ‘micro’ level.
Microgrids – renewable benefits
By having electricity already stored, users connected within the microgrid can save by switching to the supply at any time they wish, as well as ensuring a constant and reliable energy supply.
This is becoming increasingly important as electricity grids around the world look towards replacing non-renewable power with renewable energy sources; in the UK alone all coal-fired power stations will be closed by 2025, which will have significant impact on our ability to generate electricity.
There is a need therefore to make the volatile nature of renewable generation sources – solar and wind for example generate little power if the sun doesn’t shine or wind doesn’t blow – reliable.
Energy storage systems have already been recognised by Government ministers as an enabling technology to aid renewable energy reliability, with the Chancellor George Osborne soon to offer his recommendations on how the technology can be used to benefit the country’s energy supply.
Microgrid – savings
Commercial applications of energy storage systems are already providing paybacks above those of renewable projects – even with Feed In Tariffs (FIT) subsidies).
With FIT subsidies having been reduced in February and due to be again in April, there is perhaps currently no better opportunity for renewable projects to become part of an integrated microgrid solution, in which energy is harnessed and provided to the final user through energy storage, before FIT payments vanish completely.
Alongside this, energy storage systems provide a further income with its ability to support frequency and supply of the microgrid system. This is done through national grid led incentives such as EDR (Electricity Demand Reduction), FFR (Firm Frequency Response) and STOR (Short Term Operating Reserves).
Within the integrated microgrid system it will also become easier to predict the availability of power by using energy storage systems, allowing companies to access the stored power to avoid times of high tariffs and Triad charges, that are continuing to rise year on year.
Businesses can also programme energy storage systems to take control of specific energy demands, such as production lines or lighting systems that may be consuming high amounts of electricity at certain times of the day.
Additional benefits include eliminating the use of inverters on renewable installations, which help reduce costs and improve return on investment and by providing full facility Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) for up to two hours during any electricity loss on the grid, it allows the need for a separate UPS systems to be negated.
Energy storage systems have emerged as one of the best solutions to address the growing concern that energy grids around the world are struggling to cope with the surge in demand for electricity, which continues to accelerate. In the UK peak demand on the grid is expected to increase six-fold by 2050.
Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab has estimated that energy storage technologies could generate savings of £10bn a year by 2050 in the UK alone and the Department of Energy & Climate Change has stated that energy storage technology has the potential to enhance energy flexibility across the UK.
For more information about Powerstar Virtue visit www.powerstar.com