Storing solar energy

Lithium ion-based battery could be the answer to storage issues

Even as the move towards renewable energy gathers pace on the back of the government’s ambitious plans of adding 100 GW of solar energy by 2022, the energy storage technology remains largely out of synch with strides in generation technology. This could change with the advent of lithium ion-based (LIB) battery solutions.

Recently, Acme, a solar and telecommunication equipment maker, unveiled an LIB solution called EcoGrid, showcasing advancements in storage technology. Although LIB batteries have been in use in smaller gadgets like mobile phones, the use of these batteries for storing energy to run bigger installations has been a recent breakthrough.

Earlier this year, US-based Tesla Motors launched Powerwall, an LIB battery that could be typically used for storing solar energy from photovoltaic installations. EcoGrid goes a step ahead of that by providing multiple solutions, instead of just storage.

EcoGrid is designed to sense any variation in power supply and automatically switch to stable supply from the energy stored in the system. This helps manufacturers who suffer production disruptions from fluctuation in the electricity supply.

“We installed the system for a 120 KVA load at a textile mill in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand. Although the power supply is fairly reliable in that area, the mill suffers huge losses due to fluctuation in supply even if it happens for a few seconds. The EcoGrid system has ensured that fluctuations don’t affect the plants performance,” Acme CEO Samir Sharan told FE.

The same system can be used for power storage where supply is not reliable and long hours of load-shedding is the norm. Currently, nearly 25 GW of power is produced from diesel generators to bridge the gap between demand and supply. The LIB storage system could completely replace such generators, but the initial cost remains a big hurdle.

Though LIB solutions are relatively expensive, their long life—a storage solution lasts for 4000 cycles or 10 years—give them a cost advantage over lead acid batteries, which need replacement in three years. Also, the LIB system takes a fifth of the space of a conventional energy storage system.

A typical storage equipment, about the size of a 150-litre refrigerator, designed for 5KVA load with a storage capacity of 6.6 kilowatt hour (Kwh), would cost about R3.5 lakh, which makes it unaffordable for households. So Acme is banking on large commercial installations like industries, hospitals and schools. “We would need support from the government to bring these solutions to the masses”, says Sharan. LIB systems could also make rooftop installations more attractive for consumers as unused stored energy could be sold back to the utilities through net metering.

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First published on: 19-08-2015 at 00:03 IST