11 May 2022

Without battery storage technology, we won’t be able to keep up the pace of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy from solar and wind farms. The battery storage systems used in these farms are vital for ensuring that renewable energy can keep up with demands for electricity and provide optimum green energy.

Lithium-ion batteries are allowing renewable energy plants to supply green energy to relieve pressure off the national grid at peak times. If the UK intends to reach net zero, we must be able to harness renewable energy in a way that allows us to utilise it to its full potential. That’s where battery storage systems come into play in commercial and community energy farms.

What is a battery storage system?

Battery energy storage systems (BESS) are devices that allow the energy generated by renewable systems – such as wind and solar farms – to be stored and released at the necessary time. A battery storage system is vital for ensuring a continuous energy flow as wind and solar power naturally vary throughout the day.

The role of battery storage systems 

One of the main concerns people have around wind and solar energy is “what happens when it’s not windy or the sun isn’t out?”. That’s where battery storage systems kick in. Green energy can meet its potential to meet all our energy needs when it’s paired with a suitable battery energy storage system.

As solar and wind energy is fairly predictable, battery systems can be developed to meet the shortage of energy production throughout the day. Essentially, the battery storage system’s principal role is to balance the incoming power supply from solar or wind and the outgoing electrical needs of those on the grid. When solar or wind energy is unavailable, the grid takes it from the battery storage system.

It's not just onshore green energy that can benefit from battery storage systems. While the UK has the largest offshore wind capacity in the world, it needs the help of battery storage systems to deploy this energy in a way that reduces costs, boosts production, and lowers reliance on fossil fuels.

With the UK determined to meet net zero carbon emissions by removing its reliance on fossil fuels, battery storage systems provide a necessary back-up for green energy supplies to keep up with consumer demand.

It’s no surprise that the government are investing heavily in battery storage systems as the key to meeting net zero targets and creating a seamless switch from fossil fuels to sustainable energy. Battery storage systems allow for low-carbon power to become the UK’s number one source of electricity.

Current estimates suggest that utilising battery storage systems could save the UK’s energy system £40 billion by the end of 2050. This saving isn’t just beneficial for the public purse – it will help to lower the energy bills of everyday consumers. 

For the green energy revolution to continue, it needs to be supported by battery storage systems to ensure reliability and operational resilience. Having a strong infrastructure of storage systems will allow for a better transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Going forward, solar and wind farms should be paired with a battery energy storage system.

How do battery storage systems work?

It’s easy to think that a battery storage system works like the battery on your iPhone. In reality, it’s very different. The storage system works by being charged from the electricity generated through its renewable energy source – whether it’s solar or wind.

What makes this battery system different is that it incorporates algorithm software that works to coordinate the energy production and decide when this energy should be released into the grid or put in reserve. The reserved energy will be released when the grid is experiencing increased demand to maintain the electricity flow and reduce peak-time costs.

The storage systems being used for renewable energy

Most battery storage systems aren’t sustainable. By its nature, the energy storage systems used for renewable energy needs to be cost-efficient with a life span that will ensure it continues to operate effectively for years to come. Each solar or wind farm needs a battery storage system that can facilitate the electricity demand.

Currently, lithium-ion batteries are the most popular system used for energy storage as they’re considered economically viable. However, there are other types of battery energy storage systems being explored and developed to utilise the full potential of green energy.

Flow batteries act as rechargeable fuel cells that operate with chemical energy from two chemical components that are dissolved in a liquid and separated by a membrane within the battery system.

Another alternative being explored is compressed air energy storage which will utilize surplus energy to compress and store air. When the grid is experiencing peak demand, this compressed air will be released from the chamber and moved through an air turbine to produce electricity.

Finally, another battery storage system being explored is mechanical gravity energy storage. It works by re-directing the energy to move concrete blocks. When the grid needs excess energy, the blocks are lowered and utilise gravity to generate energy.

The next decade of renewable energy will focus on developing energy storage systems, including battery energy storage systems, to allow renewables to replace fossil fuels.

The role of battery storage facilities in achieving net zero

Battery storage systems will play a vital role in ensuring that the UK can achieve net zero. The deployment of large-scale battery storage facilities is one of the largest challenges facing the renewable energy system that needs to provide a reliable way to meet consumer demand.

Battery storage facilities will act to balance supply and demand, acting in unison with solar and wind farms to remove the need for fossil fuels. These battery storage facilities will kick into action during the particular hours of the day when energy demand out-performs concurrent production. California provides an ideal example of how widespread battery storage facilities can turbo-charge the green energy revolution.

For the transition from fossil fuel to renewables to happen on time, we need battery storage facilities across the United Kingdom.