Soham Times October 2017
BATTERIES VS PUMPED STORAGE HYDROPOWER
Article contributed by Mr. Sunil Naik
Two very different storage technologies – one old, one new; one that takes years to build, one that can be built ‘within 100 days (or it’s free)’. How else do they differ, and is there a place for both?. The rapid growth of renewable energy generation has been driven by two concurrent factors: the falling levelised cost of the energy produced by wind and solar, and the retirement of a number of coal-fired power stations.Renewables can’t, on their own, meet the fluctuations in demand that occur throughout the day without some regulation as to when power reaches the grid. Power needs to be dispatchable. Dispatchable means that energy can be provided upon request. If the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, renewable energy cannot be dispatched unless it has been stored in some way.
There are a number of different types of storage but the two being discussed most widely right now are batteries and pumped storage hydropower. These two technologies are very different and there are some limitations involved in comparing a well-known and established technology with one that is new and developing rapidly. Pumped hydro is based on well-established synchronous generation, providing critical ancillary services to the grid, through the provision of inertia, frequency and voltage support and sufficient fault level support.
Battery inverter technologies are still catching up on most of these fronts. The potential for batteries to provide ‘synthetic inertia’ or fast frequency response is high but this is balanced by their reliance on system strength to be able to deliver this support. They offer minimal support with fault levels but can still provide some support to system frequency and voltage regulation.
HOW FAST CAN THEY HAPPEN?
There’s no doubt that battery storage is quicker to implement than pumped storage hydropower. Pumped hydro, by comparison, is a technology that takes much longer to implement. Typically, development activities (including optimising the technical solution, environmental and social assessments, arranging finance and finalising design) take two years or more to complete, and construction takes another two to three years.
Considering that batteries need to be replaced once or twice a decade, with the currently available technologies, a battery facility will need to be replaced a number of times during the potential 100-year life of a pumped storage project. For batteries, assuming an economic life of 40 years, the initial cost plus replacements may mean whole-of-life costs fall in the range of $200/MWh to $330/MWh.
SO, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
The rise of renewables will inevitably lead to a diversity of storage and supply solutions. The range of these solutions will depend on the resources of particular regions and locations. It is highly likely that the future for both batteries and pumped storage technologies will be extremely bright.
Batteries are here to stay and will undoubtedly play a significant role in future power systems as the technology develops and costs fall. However, while batteries can provide fast response times, they are yet to demonstrate their ability to provide the full range of ancillary services needed to support the grid. Pumped hydro remains a landmark, proven and reliable technology, able to meet the needs of the grid and provide sustained output for up to a century.
Ultimately, there is room for both batteries and pumped storage hydro, and they may even complement each other. Batteries are more cost-effective at delivering small amounts of stored energy over a short time at high power levels. Pumped storage is more cost-effective at storing and releasing larger amounts of stored energy. Achieving the optimum storage solution will depend on careful planning and finding the best fit for the particular circumstances.
What is certain is that both technologies will play important roles in the development and expansion of a network powered by renewable energy.
Soham as a green power company was established with the idea of providing clean and sustainable energy.