By Chinedu Igbokwe, NEC Energy Solutions Inc.
The integration of intermittent renewables like PV or wind is typically not an issue in small amounts, but as the percentage of electricity derived from these variable resources increases, the ability to integrate all that renewable energy becomes more challenging. In many ways, the grid needs to be prepared to accept a shift from on-demand thermal generation to variable generation. This is where energy storage steps in. It is one of the resources that can integrate renewables very effectively and compensate for the variability in sun and wind.
Energy storage has already been quite effective in increasing the reliability and resiliency of grids around the world, whether in high penetration renewable environments like Hawaii, to very large stable well-interconnected grids like central Europe. First and foremost, it is the ability for fast responding energy storage to provide ancillary services, balancing services like frequency response, capacity reserve, or frequency regulation. With the obligation to provide primary and secondary reserve being met by energy storage, the existing generation sites can free up its reserve capacity to help meet the electricity needs, without needing to install brand new generation.
Secondly, in those areas where renewable generation is beginning to be deployed, the ability to manage grid frequency can also become more challenging, and this is another area where energy storage can strengthen and prepare the grid for a more variable generation fleet.
What this means for countries in Africa is that energy storage can provide support to existing generation and transmission infrastructures as well as help introduce renewables and avoid inefficiencies in integrating them. Storage can help us extract all the value from existing and new resources, avoiding things like curtailment or inefficient operations of thermal generation, and create a more resilient power system while cleaning it up at the same time.
Energy storage for the grid has begun to adopt lithium ion battery technology as the mainstream technology for storing electricity. Today it represents the most effective core technology that powers the large grid energy storage installations that have more recently been seen around the world. Within the battery field there are many different chemistries being contemplated, all of which promise to improve on energy density, safety, durability, or power capability.
Our Continent is in the relative early stages of a renewable energy revolution. As the use of solar and wind-based power grows, operators will find it more and more difficult to keep the grids stable and ensure a reliable supply of energy. We need to ensure the revolution can continue to grow and feed Africa’s growing economies – and effective energy storage is the solution to this challenge.
Chinedu is leading the development of grid scale energy storage projects in Africa and Middle East region for NEC Energy Solutions a company based in Massachusetts with country affiliate locations in Johannesburg South Africa, Lagos Nigeria and Istanbul Turkey. In this role, Chinedu works with Governments, electric power companies, project developers and system operators to solve power issues using energy storage technologies. At this year’s Energy Revolution Africa in Cape Town, Chinedu will be tackling the challenges Africa faces in renewable energy storage.