The race to develop renewable energy sources in Asia is accelerating. The role and potential of green energy in the years to come in the region’s socio-economic development have become clearer. Despite the accelerated economic growth in the region, 10% of the region’s people still lack electricity. To realize the potential of renewable energy, the suppliers can’t overlook the role of energy storage solutions.
Why Do Energy Storage Solutions Matter?
Renewable energy has developed at an impressive rate in Asia. Thailand is a good example. In 2018, renewable energy accounted for 10% of the entire power grid. The Thai government plans to raise non-hydro renewable energy to 30% by 2036.
Solar energy accounts for an estimated 3,300 MW in Thailand. This output is 60% of the installed solar capacity in ASEAN nations. This number is expected to rise to 6,000 MW by 2036. The government is also planning wind power output from the present 600 MW to 3,000 MW by 2036.
However, the fast growth of renewable energy sources has not been matched by similar growth in energy storage solutions. Only 3% of the energy produced globally is stored. The rest goes to waste. Batteries have been the mainstay of energy storage solutions, with other solutions like magnetic induction still in their early stages.
Expanding energy storage can dramatically change energy consumption patterns. If only 3% is presently stored, 20% would have a drastic change in power usage, cost, and environmental conservation.
The Role of Energy Storage Solutions
Energy storage solutions are useful in two ways:
- Storing excess power at peak generation
Renewable energy is generated in peaks and valleys. Solar power, for example, will peak when the sun is at the brightest. This is usually midday for many Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand.
Batteries store this energy for later consumption when power generation is not optimal, for example, on dark cloudy nights, to ensure continuous power availability. High capacity batteries store power and release it for days.
On the grid level, storing power reduces the need to bring on board ‘dirtier’ fuel power generation plants to respond to peak demand. The stored energy can be released according to the patterns of energy demand.
In power grids with little flexibility in power generation (no auxiliary power plants), the stored energy provides auxiliary power. It reduces the need to ration power in response to inadequate power and the frequency of power blackouts. The impact of a consistent power supply on socio-economic growth is significantly positive. The provision of consistent power has promoted small businesses’ opening and lifted millions of homes out of poverty.
- Reduced Intermittency in Power Generation
Intermittency is the variability of power generation, for example, hydropower is affected during droughts, and cloudy, rainy days can go on for weeks, bringing down power output. Solar and wind power have remained largely unexploited because of intermittency.
Reducing intermittency enables power grids to get more value from renewable energy. It will encourage more investment in renewable power generation and faster switching to cleaner energy by Southeast Asian countries.
Which Energy Storage Systems Are Currently Available?
Energy storage systems help achieve continuity in energy availability. Simply put, it is any system that enables energy production on demand. Energy storage systems use different technologies and have different levels of scalability.
Energy storage systems can be mechanical, chemical, thermal, or electromagnetic. The most common energy storage system is pumped hydro. This is water stored in dams that is released to produce energy. It is a mechanical energy storage system. Flywheels and pressurized gas systems also produce energy mechanically.
Chemical energy storage systems include flow batteries, Lithium-Ion batteries, and fuel cells. These systems produce energy through chemical reactions. Thermal systems like molten salt release energy by changing temperature. Magnetic superconductors release energy from electromagnetic fields.
Advantages of Battery Technology
Of all energy storage systems, batteries have seen the biggest advances. Batteries are playing a big role as energy producers, and storage solutions for other systems’ energy. Batteries are key components in solar energy systems. They store excess energy for power production when the photovoltaic cells are not generating energy.
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries
Li-ion batteries have become the preferred power storage solution for electronics, electric vehicles, and other applications requiring portable energy. Li-ion batteries have the advantages of being light and rechargeable. They have also become affordable to produce, which is the reason they power billions of devices.
Li-ion batteries vary in size from small packs powering smartphones to grid-scale batteries capable of producing 100 MW. They are also the most widespread, holding 95% of the battery market.
Flow batteries produce energy from the oxidation and reduction of a chemical electrolyte. These electrochemical reactions can be repeated for several thousand cycles, which gives flow batteries longevity.
Flow batteries are also easy to scale because it only requires holding larger volumes of the electrolyte. For this reason, they are used on solar and wind farms.
This battery releases energy from the electrochemical oxidation and reduction of zinc. These batteries have been promoted as suitable replacements for Li-ion batteries. Zinc is cheaper than lithium and is mined in more environmentally sustainable ways. Zinc can also be recycled at the end of the battery’s lifespan.
Advances in battery technology
Battery technology is the subject of heavy R&D research. The aims are varied; higher capacity batteries to store solar energy, extending the range of electric vehicles, fast charging, and bringing the costs as low as possible.
Some of the promising battery technologies include;
- Lithium-Sulfur (Li-S) battery – This battery promises to hold four times today’s li-ion battery, and power electric cars over 1,000 km
- Solid-state batteries – This battery will use solid materials for conduction instead of liquid electrolyte. They will be more compact and charge faster
- Organic batteries – These futuristic batteries will use amino acids to act as biological conductors to charge phones as fast as 60 seconds
Energy Storage Solutions for Renewable Energy
Energy innovators like Enovatek are driving renewable energy adoption in Southeast Asia. This energy storage solutions provider offers efficient solar power batteries, electric vehicles, off-grid adventures, and much more.
Renewable energy adoption very much hinges on the pace of advances in energy storage solutions. The potential savings in developing and installing efficient higher capacity energy storage solutions are enormous. They will enable even more investments in renewable energy accessible to more homes and businesses.