‘We will absolutely not be able to get by without battery storage’

The battery and its role in renewable energy is set to become a technology of the future in Ireland as climate action steps up a gear in this country.

The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) says that if Ireland is to reach its renewable energy targets as set out by the EU, the country “will absolutely not be able to get by without battery storage”.

Meanwhile, the EU set an overall target for Ireland of 16% of total final consumption to come from renewable energy by 2020. 40% of that is focused on the generation of electricity through wind energy.

The focus now, says IWEA, is on reaching that 40% target – and because “batteries balance out wind” the technology will have a major role in renewable energy going forward.

Justin Moran is head of communications and public affairs at IWEA and he says that as Ireland endeavours to reach those renewable energy targets “battery technology will be necessary”.

Batteries are going to have to be built somewhere in this country between now and then because batteries balance out the wind, and the solar for that matter, on the system.

He added: “Planning processes are already underway for battery technology in this country.”

Moran says that once the battery is built, underground or overground lines will be installed accordingly and because “there is a real push these days to try and underground everything” – this, he adds, will be the big possibility going forward.

“Once the battery is infrastructurally connected up it needs then to be sited in a place that is accessible to the electricity grid. Once the system would be up and running there wouldn’t be a huge amount of people on site – it would be monitored remotely.

“The primary purpose of batteries is to keep the system stable – it’s all about system stability. When EirGrid talks about all of this they call batteries ‘system stability services’ – that is how EirGrid views the world. If we are to develop renewable power we can’t do it without battery storage.”

Technology and the future

Moran went on then to explain how battery technology will work and the role EirGrid will play in its future.

He says it is important to note that EirGrid puts limits on the amount of wind that is placed in the system because “it is not safe to have wind operating at more than that”.

One of those limits is 66% demand; say, for example, there was 6,000MW of electricity needed and wind has 4,500MW then EirGrid will switch off 500MW of electricity and take the 4,000MW only.

He continued: “65% is as high as Ireland can go at the moment but EirGrid is hoping to increase that to 75% by 2020. So, I have 65% of wind in the system – that means that I need 35% from the conventional fossil fuels because I need to keep my system safe.

“If I have batteries they also operate at 50Hz so I fill my battery full of renewable electricity and then when I hit my limit instead of having to need coal or gas for the 35% it can go back to using battery renewables.”

The IWEA’s head of communications and public affairs says that a situation could also develop where, for example, wind is 65%.

If that is the case, he adds, instead of conventionals being at 35%, they would be at 30% and 5% batteries.

“It’s not about when the lights go out or the wind stops blowing that we switch on the batteries to provide power – you actually use batteries when you have so much wind in the system you can’t put on any more – battery enables you to put on more.

“If we are to get to 75% by 2020 we will absolutely not be able to get by without battery storage; they are going to have to build somewhere in this country between now and then. Batteries balance out the wind, and the solar for that matter, on the system.”