Battery storage for industry – why now?

battery storage, renewable
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Chris Rason, Managing Director for Northern Europe at Aggreko UK, underlines the importance of battery storage for industry and why the time for this is now

From BEIS figures published released in July 2020 showing the UK broke renewable energy generation records in 2019, to industry’s ongoing efforts to meet net-zero carbon emissions ahead of 2050, the topic of green energy has grown in prominence this year. However, though we are trending toward renewable energy sources, greater battery storage infrastructure and support are required to alleviate potential disruption.

The closer we get to 2050, the more challenging meeting net-zero targets seem. Five-year strategies are fast becoming a thing of the past as recent events have proven everything can change overnight. Organisations that once had extensive CapEx budgets to improve and optimise are now showing a propensity to consider a more temporary approach to the future.

While lockdown has driven a more ambitious, green approach as industry has recovered, it can be argued that this represents the culmination of a long-standing trend. For example, BEIS figures published earlier this year showed that a record 37.1% of UK electricity was generated through renewables in 2019, and this figure is sure to increase further in the short term due to pandemic-based disruption. Coupled with the Government pledging that all UK homes will be powered by wind within 10 years, it appears the UK is very much fixed on an upward trajectory when it comes to adopting green energy sources.

At risk of disruption

Though most sectors are increasingly considering greener technologies, the UK industry is yet to make waves when it comes to battery storage. This is due to perceived issues around accessibility, as battery-based technology has traditionally been seen as prohibitively costly for organisations to purchase on an industrial scale. However, as the national grid continues to decarbonise, companies locked out of the energy storage space by financial barriers may find themselves open to new risks.

Power outages are one such concern, best embodied by the National Grid’s announcement in October 2020 that unusually low wind speeds were leading to fluctuations in the nation’s energy supply. For organisations reliant on the grid for power, this placed them at risk of disruption to their operations. With the coronavirus shrinking budgets and forcing companies in all sectors to do more with less, the financial impact of this unplanned downtime could be severe.

With that in mind, it is clear that industry cannot stand still in a potentially worsening situation. Organisations that cannot afford energy storage technology may find themselves at growing risk of power shortages as our reliance on renewables increases, and unable to afford the energy storage technology necessary to offset this risk.

Alleviating issues

Consequently, if the UK industry is to successfully implement renewable energy strategies necessitated by Net-Zero legislation, wider uptake of storage capacity solutions will be required to increase overall resilience. This issue was highlighted in research carried out last year by Aggreko, with 82% of key energy decision-makers surveyed highlighting that power continuity was a major or significant concern to their business.

Battery technology offers an attractive means of alleviating these concerns while accelerating the transition to renewable energy and net-zero emissions. Indeed, their effectiveness as an on-site decentralised energy storage solution cannot be underestimated.

When incorporated into a premises’ wider energy mix, battery storage can act as a precaution against the large variations of power inherent in renewable energy sources. By buffering against fluctuating power supply, it allows energy levels to be ‘smoothed’ and deployed at periods where energy demand may be higher, but power generation may be waning.

One such example of this could be re-distributing stored solar power to light and heat a plant that required round-the-clock power to keep processes running. Additionally, batteries can also be used to ensure smoother ongoing performance on equipment that is sensitive to larger load step changes, such as gas generators. As the technology can help maintain voltage and frequency within agreed specifications, disruption from fluctuating demand is negated.

Alongside these benefits, energy storage solutions can mitigate a host of other issues. For example, they can act as a spinning reserve, increasing overall plant or site efficiency by running fewer generators at a higher load. As a result, less fuel is expended across the facility, allowing companies to make savings on fuel consumption. Batteries can also smoother ongoing performance on equipment that is sensitive to larger load step changes, such as gas generators.

These spinning reserve displacement benefits can be most keenly felt in the data centre sector, which is highly energy-intensive and reliant on a stable and consistent power supply. Adding two 1MW battery systems to an 18MW data centre with a gradual load ramp, for instance, could lead to approximately £900,000 in fuel gas and carbon emissions savings over two years.

The technology can also play a vital role in the early stages of implementing decentralised energy schemes by operating as an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). In this capacity, battery solutions can provide backup power if utility or grid power were to fail. This can either be utilised to facilitate a graceful shutdown of site equipment that ensures critical processes are not interrupted, or to keep the site online long enough at required loads until power returns.

Improving accessibility

Yet with the country’s energy storage infrastructure not currently developed enough to provide sufficient levels of power resilience and permanent solutions too costly to implement, decision-makers may need to entertain innovative approaches like strategic equipment hire. The development of new battery solutions in the rental space means the technology is now more accessible in both grid support and on-site applications for organisations hamstrung by CapEx constraints. The presence of such solutions also means fewer generators are required on-site as standard, further reducing upfront CapEx spending, and ongoing, OPEX service costs, resulting in additional savings.

Furthermore, by treating energy storage as an ongoing, hired service, industry can guard against both the more inconsistent nature of renewable power sources, and the risk of long-term commitments that could lead to stranded assets and tied-up capital. These are key concerns in the fast-moving field of battery technology, especially at a time when the coronavirus has had an unprecedented financial impact across industry. Treating energy storage as an OPEX cost also allows businesses to build the funding required for a potential permanent energy storage solution as the technology continues to mature.

Battery storage for industry – where next?

In conclusion, the country’s inexorable march toward greener energy sources requires industry stakeholders to think strategically if they are to avoid power disruption issues in the near future. By looking at hired energy storage solutions, organisations can move

toward a carbon-neutral future, stay ahead of legislation and save on both electricity costs and overall emissions, while avoiding fiscal obstacles associated with permanent installations.

For more information about Net-Zero and sustainable energy technologies such as battery storage, download Aggreko’s latest report, ‘Bridging the Gap to Net Zero: Solutions towards the net-zero challenge,’ visit:

Chris Rason Managing Director, Northern Europe Aggreko Tel: +44 (0)3458 247 365

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Managing Director, Northern Europe
Phone: +44 (0)3458 247 36
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