The growth and penetration of renewables in the energy market is driving the need for storage systems capable of ensuring the durability, reliability, flexibility and continuity of the electricity system.
Balancing supply and demand for energy, these systems facilitate the transition process by storing large quantities of energy which can then be made available to the grid at times of higher demand.
In this scenario, we are working to trial and develop new solutions by taking full advantage of digitalization, new technologies and open innovation models.
Efficient, reliable and flexible solutions
Natural sources like the sun, water and wind are intrinsically intermittent and subject to variations in their availability.
Only thanks to storage systems and pumped storage hydroelectric plants is it possible to achieve energy independence and store energy to be used at times of peak demand, balancing the total energy generation resources.
“Pumped storage and BESS are two different technologies that respond to the same three system needs: adequacy, which is the system’s capacity to deal with peaks in energy demand; security, meaning the capacity to ensure at all times the precise balance between energy fed onto, and withdrawn from, the grid; and finally, the possibility to uncouple the phase of energy production from that of consumption. ”
From the past to the present
In recent years, the intensification of production from renewables has been accompanied by the development and installation of BESS (Battery Energy Storage Systems). This trend promises to gain even more momentum in the near future. According to reports by IRENA, in the period from 2017 to 2030, the amount of energy stored in energy storage systems will increase from 4.67 TWh to 13 TWh. This is in line with the goals of Fit for 55, the European Union’s program to achieve zero net carbon emissions quickly.
One recent example of storage integration can be found in the Santa Barbara combined cycle power plant in Cavriglia, Tuscany, where we’ve installed a Thermal Energy Storage (TES). The region is already one of Italy’s greenest in energy terms, with more than 50% of its energy self-produced from renewable sources. An example of open innovation, this innovative and sustainable plant uses rocks to store thermal energy and was created together with the Israeli startup Brenmiller Energy. This is the world’s first industrial scale deployment of this new technology for storing energy in the form of heat in order to make power plants more flexible.
“With this project, we are once again bringing excellence, people, ideas and investments to Italy. It’s no coincidence that this project is in Tuscany, where we’re present across the length of the energy value chain and where we’re taking another step forwards with a new solution to accelerate the energy transition. ”
A second life to promote circularity
Speaking of innovation and storage, it’s essential to adopt circular economy models to manage the end-of-life phase of our assets: the development of a second life for batteries and battery storage units makes it possible to reduce costs and prevent further exploitation of resources.
Second life storage systems are also suitable for large structures, as demonstrated by the PIONEER (airPort sustaInability secONd lifE battEry stoRage) project. Batteries supplied by three different car manufacturers are used to store surplus energy produced by a solar photovoltaic system and help power Rome’s Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci International Airport.
The project was made possible thanks to the partnership between Enel X and Aeroporti di Roma, the operator of Rome’s commercial airports, and a grant of 3.15 million euros from the EU Innovation Fund. Enel X is one of the world’s leading global integrators of battery energy storage and offers tailored solutions to meet the needs and priorities of its corporate, commercial and industrial clients, enabling them to reduce their energy costs, improve sustainability across the supply chain and avoid disruptions to their day-to-day operations as well as generate revenue in the flexibility markets.
Batteries in the near future
The most commonly installed storage systems in recent years have been those using lithium batteries, due to the substantial benefits that they offer in terms of efficiency and useful life. In the near future, however, different technologies will be adopted that are capable of storing even greater amounts of energy, such as flow batteries with alternative chemical flows (using elements like vanadium, iron and zinc), advanced models of lithium batteries with solid state electrolyte and facilities that exploit gravitational energy or gas compression.
A sector in which innovation never stops, just like our energy.