There is no doubt that the electricity grid of the future will be greener than it is today. Intermittent renewable energy sources, with solar and wind at the fore, are gradually taking over from fossil fuel generation in grids around the world.
But there are two other attributes of the grid of the future that are just as important, if less widely acknowledged. One is that tomorrow’s electricity networks will have to be much smarter than they are today. The other is that energy storage, at all scales, will play a key role.
The requirement for greater intelligence in the grid is easy to understand based on the growing need to match intermittent renewable energy generation with fluctuating patterns of demand.
The amount of solar or wind energy available at any given point in time depends on environmental conditions and cannot be increased at will to meet demand peaks. But intelligent grids can channel the available energy to where it is needed most, while throttling back consumption on assets such as freezers or air conditioning units that do not need a constant supply of electricity.
This practice, known as demand response, is already being used in grids across Europe and North America. Moves to establish it in Australia kicked off last September on the back of consultation papers by the Energy Security Board and the Australian Energy Market Commission.
However, demand response alone will not be enough to keep future grids in balance. Switching off a few large electric loads may help solve some of the grid’s imbalances, but for more stable operation it will be necessary to keep some energy in reserve. That’s where energy storage comes in.
Huge battery plants such as the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia can not only add multiple megawatts of power to the grid in times of need, but also deliver valuable ancillary services to make sure the frequency and voltage of the electricity network stays within reasonable limits.
And while Australia lags in the implementation of demand response, when it comes to energy storage the country is a world leader. For years, Hornsdale was the biggest battery system in the world.
Although that accolade has now passed on to the US, Australia could be set to regain the title in future thanks to a project in the New South Wales Hunter Valley that is eight times bigger than Hornsdale. The CEP Energy Kurri Kurri plant is just one of many mega batteries planned for the National Electricity Market.
And as Australia’s electricity networks get greener, they won’t just need mega projects but batteries of all sizes, including residential systems and larger units for commercial and industrial use.
In fact, the key to a smart future grid will be to have appropriately sized energy storage assets in all locations, from the average household and office right up to the transmission network. Without them, most of that solar and wind power could simply go to waste.
This Sponsored Editorial is brought to you by Pacific Green. For more information on energy storage and the role it will play in the smart grid of the future, download Pacific Green’s free guides to energy storage at www.pacific.green/es-guides