The NEC Energy Solutions Blog

Quick guide: Making the most of large-scale energy storage systems

Installing energy storage technologies at scale is a huge commitment. You need the project to deliver meaningful value for an extended period of time. In most cases, the system also must be cost efficient at the outset and capable of delivering value in a variety of parts of the grid.

Utility operators investing in a large-scale energy storage system have plenty to think about. In many cases, battery investments have been put into place as pilot projects or entry points into energy storage. As grid operators consider putting significant financial resources into a large-scale energy storage system, they need to think broadly about the implications of using the technology. Three of the most important issues you need to keep in mind include:

"Choosing the right battery duration is essential."

1. Battery discharge duration
How long will you need your energy storage system to discharge energy? This is a nuanced part of any capacity discussion, as grid storage solutions can be designed to release high capacities of power fast, store large quantities of electricity that can be released gradually over an extended period of time or fit in a middle ground between the two. Generally speaking, these three categories highlight the primary uses of large-scale grid storage, and each provides specific benefits:

High-rate batteries: A high-rate solution is what you need if you want to be able to get large amounts of power from your batteries quickly. This can be ideal when it comes to overcoming variability with renewables and improving grid stability. For example, if power delivery is disrupted from one generation source and you need to replace that power efficiently for a short time, a high-rate system is what you need.

High-rate batteries aren't what you want if you need to sustain energy deliver over the course of an extended outage, but many downtime events are triggered by a short power delivery failure that is complicated by the time it takes to get systems back to normal. Having a high-rate energy storage system in place can eliminate the outage from an end-user perspective, buying you the few minutes you need to get systems running again.

Medium-duration batteries: A medium-duration battery system will usually be able to discharge energy for between 30 minutes and an hour, giving you the ability to perform vital tasks like peak shaving, renewable time shifting, peaking capacity and primary reserve functions. This duration can be deliver value in diverse ways by giving you a stable and versatile source of.

Long-duration batteries: Implementing a long-duration battery system will give you an energy storage system capable of discharging power for extended periods of time, generally for between one and four hours. This is accomplished through high-density energy storage systems that will enable you to support functions like peak load reduction, support your transmission and distribution network, perform renewable firming and defer grid upgrades.

Choosing the right battery duration is essential to supporting any large-scale grid storage investment.

"Vendor experience can pay dividends in system integration."

2. Housing the battery system
The larger the energy storage solution you put in place, the more room their is for inefficiency to creep in. Every battery solution will lose a small amount of power between the batteries themselves and the grid. A good energy storage system will integrate the grid and the batteries as efficiently as possible. That said, a small measure of power will be lost along the way. The amount of energy being lost can be substantial with a large-scale energy storage system, so you need to prioritize how you will house and integrate the battery with the grid.

At a simple level, finding success housing the battery solution depends on working with an integration provider that has plenty of experience deploying energy storage systems. That experience can pay dividends when trying to optimize the integration and battery housing solutions that will surround your battery. Everything from temperature management to data integration can come into play when housing and integrating your battery, and organizations deploying a large-scale solution need to account for these issues.

3. Maintenance, support and safety
Establishing a large-scale energy storage solution is such a major financial commitment that you will need the system to last for years without significant problems. This means that you must make sure your solution provider offers the maintenance and support capabilities that you need to maximize the value of the battery system over time. Safety features are also incredibly important, as any safety related problems that arise can not only injure employees, but cause significant damages to the batteries or facility housing the solution. A good energy storage system provider will not just include robust support, but also provide safety features that prevent batteries from experiencing a catastrophic failure.

Investing in a large-scale energy storage solution does not need to be an intimidating affair. A good solution provider will take a consultative attitude to the sales process and help you find the right system for your specific needs.

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