Battery storage may be slowed down by one major flaw

Battery storage for renewable energy is an important technology — but it may not yet be a viable technology. A pilot project to test integrated rooftop solar into the grid through battery storage found the economics of the innovations are not yet where they need to be.

Nice, France. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The “Nice Grid” project, which took place in the village of Carros, outside Nice, France, is being backed by the European Union’s (EU) “Grid4EU” campaign, a partnership between France’s EDF, Italy’s Enel, Spain’s Iberdrola Czech Republic’s CEZ, Sweden’s Vattenfall, and Germany’s RWE that is testing power grid innovation.

As a part of the pilot, EDF’s power grid unit ERDF connected batteries to solar panels on rooftops, as well as utility-size batteries to its local power distribution network. The goal of the pilot is to develop a smart electricity distribution grid that can seamlessly integrate solar panels, storage batteries, and smart meters. The total storage capacity for the project is around 1.5 megawatt-hours (MWh).

Although the pilot found that the technology worked, and helped store the renewable sources for a time when the renewables are not available, the results found that the technology is still too expensive to roll out on a wider scale.

“The economic model of the batteries is not mature yet,” Philippe Monloubou, chief executive of French grid operator at ERDF told Reuters.

The results of the pilot found that better storage technology will be needed to make battery storage from renewable sources, like sun and wind, economically viable.

The EU has a goal of 20 percent energy produced from renewables by 2020, but battery storage could make the goal easier to achieve. Making the technology economically viable will be an important part of achieving this goal.

The study found that, even though battery storage is not economically viable in all areas, for areas with less advanced energy systems — like those that still use generators — the cost of battery storage is still lower than they are currently paying. In the Carros pilot, 20 four-kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion batteries were connected to homes with rooftop solar panels. There were also two 100 kWh batteries installed to store energy from multiple homes, and three 600 kWh batteries linked to the grid.

Grid4EU has launched six large-scale smart grid demonstration projects, which includes the Nice Grid project, to test smart grid areas like renewable energy integration, electric vehicle innovation, energy storage, load reduction, and energy efficiency.

The Nice Grid project launched in January 2012, and is expected to run through December 2015.

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