Energy storage systems, the key enablers of the renewable energy future

To make the global energy transition a reality we will need one tool in particular: affordable energy storage systems.

Most of the times, when people think about the future of electrification their minds go immediately to electric vehicles. There is no doubt that the EVs sector will expand and thrive thanks to the technology of lithium-ion batteries: it’s predicted that the battery demand for electric vehicles could grow around 30% per year up to 2,300 GWh by 2030, and EVs would constitute over 80% of total battery demand by 2025-30. However, there is another sector that is often overlooked by many but that will represent a significant part of the market and will be critical for the decarbonization of the power sector: energy storage systems (ESS).

The benefits of ESS

According to the latest data, battery demand for energy storage systems could grow by around 40% per year up to 290 GWh by 2030, with the most extensive application at grid-scale.

While the world’s energy system begins to decarbonize and more renewables are added to the mix, the costs of storage are dropping. The adoption of batteries for energy storage systems will greatly increase as the costs drop: a recent research shows that faster-than-expected cost declines of energy storage and the uptake of intermittent power sources can increase the demand of ESS to over 400 GWh by 2030.

Here are the major benefits of energy storage systems:

  • The cost of power generation can fluctuate, being cheaper at one point and pricey at another. Energy storage systems can help balance the costs.
  • Energy storage systems can help smooth the flow of renewable power, whose growth can be unstable and unpredictable.
  • Once they are integrated into electricity systems, energy storage systems can serve as a backup when the primary source of energy fails.
  • Energy storage will play an essential role to manage supply from intermittent renewable sources and will help eliminate emissions from imported electricity.
  • Energy storage will also be essential to satisfy the energy demand from EV charging infrastructures.
  • Last but not least, energy storage systems will have an essential role during natural disasters like hurricanes. During such events, ESS can be used as a backup to avoid blackouts when the main grid is down. Many international organizations and companies are in fact pushing to upgrade the new Puerto Rico’s grid with renewable technology like solar and battery storage to make the island’s energy system more resilient and reliable.

Some practical examples

As the construction of wind farms continues globally, breaking records in size and energy production , industry leaders – like our partner Vestas – are investing in battery research to develop the best energy storage solutions that will help them fully exploit the potential of wind energy.

Northvolt’s partnership with Vestas is aiming to optimize the integration of battery storage solutions into wind turbines and the design of full power plant systems to ensure greater grid stability thanks to a more stable and predictable power output. The goal of the partnership is also to develop and optimize control systems that can integrate battery storage systems with other renewable energy technologies.

Cities will also start investing more in efficient energy storage systems and in interconnected systems that can support the integration of renewables into the grid and can help maximize their use by private residences and local businesses. For instance, in the United States, the Austin SHINES project is exploring the use of solar PV with integrated storage systems at multiple scales, allowing private citizens and business owners to switch between grid power and stored electricity automatically.

The future of energy is here

While the costs of renewable energy decline, one of the main challenges we have to face is how to integrate renewables into grids and systems successfully.

Energy storage systems will help us move away from fossil fuels, towards global decarbonization and a 100% renewable energy future.

Thanks to ESS, we will be able to switch from intermittent energy supply to a continuous, reliable flow of power coming from renewable sources. While fossil fuels can generate energy steadily over time – a fossil fuels power plant can swiftly increase energy production when the demand grows – it’s not such an easy process with renewables, like wind or solar.

Due to its intermittent nature, renewable energy can’t guarantee a stable supply of power. Affordable energy storage systems can solve this problem by storing power when the energy supply exceeds the demand so that it can be used later on when the demand rises. Therefore, ESS will be essential to reach the full technical potential of solar plants, wind farms or EVs.