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  • Interview with Wesley Cole

    The market for control and balancing energy to stabilize the power grid is highly complex. We talked to Wesley Cole about innovative storage technology for green power and a successful energy transition.

    Until not so long ago, it was virtually impossible to store electricity on a large scale. What has changed now?
    Large-scale energy storage has actually been part of the grid for quite some time. In the United States there are 23 GW of pumped-hydropower storage technologies (see figure 1).

    Recent interest in battery storage has largely been driven by opportunities to deploy short-duration storage (<1 hour duration) to provide ancillary services and by the massive cost declines that have occurred for Li-ion batteries over the last decade.

    To what extent does storage now make it a game changer in the energy transition?
    The electric power sector has already been transitioning to a system with larger shares from renewable energy. For example, in the U.S. the share of electricity generated from renewables more than doubled from 2010 to 2020. This transition has taken place with relatively little storage added to the grid.

    In order to accommodate this growth in renewables, which have largely been from variables sources such as wind and solar, additional flexibility measures have been needed. These include things such as more frequent dispatch periods, better coordination among utilities and/or system operators, and new transmission. Lower-cost storage provides an additional flexibility option that can facilitate a continued transition to higher levels of renewable energy while still maintaining a low-cost power system.

    “Lower-cost storage provides an additional flexibility option that can facilitate a continued transition to higher levels of renewable energy.”

    In your view, what are the prerequisites for storage to really become a game changer?
    In my view, storage cost and performance will be the largest determinant for how large of a role storage will play. Given that many decisions in the power sector are based on some form of least-cost metric, innovations that will lower the cost of storage will increase the opportunity for storage to play an increasingly larger role in the grid.

    What is the status in the USA in this regard and what can Europe learn from the USA in your opinion?
    Utilities and developers in the U.S. are moving forward with significant interest in storage. If storage costs continue in their downward trajectory, that interest is likely to continue. Europeans will be able to learn from projects that get deployed in the U.S. just as Americans will be able to learn from the Europeans from similar projects.

    How important is green power (and green power purchase agreements) for industries?
    This varies based on the industry and companies within that industry. For more information see here.

    What is the interaction between renewable energies and storage solutions?
    Many renewable energy technologies have variable output. Storage provides a way to at least partially mitigate that variability. Given the rapid cost declines of both renewable energy technologies and storage, coupled with the increasing interest to decarbonize the power sector, the two provide a nice duo for achieving carbon reduction objectives while maintain a reliable and low-cost system.

    Wesley, thank you for talking to us.

    In the energy storage sector, STEAG has been gaining broad expertise in the installation of large-scale battery systems since 2015.