The role of storage in making the energy transition happen

Kolijn Venema, Technical Project Manager, iwell BV

Dutch company iwell works on projects that bring together energy storage and renewable energy sources, such as solar panels. These solutions help (temporarily) reduce the need for grid connections. This allows companies to save costs and relieves pressure on the electricity grid.

De rol van opslag bij het realiseren van de energietransitie

In my role, I am responsible for the design, installation, and delivery of battery systems. Previously, I worked as a naval engineer aboard ships in the cruise, merchant, and offshore industries. Battery storage has been increasingly used in this sector for years. iwell’s mission is to build the energy system of the future. We are experts in the field of battery technology, develop our own software, for example for controlling batteries, and work as a systems integrator.

Evidently, the Netherlands is facing a major challenge in when it comes to grid congestion, also referred to as the ‘traffic jam’ on the energy grid. Grid congestion poses a major challenge to the energy transition and even economic growth. There is simply not enough capacity to connect everyone, and at the same time there is the need to connect more and more renewable energy sources. A buffer is useful for aligning energy demand and production. With a battery, you can store energy surpluses and supply this power in the event of shortages, at different levels: from business parks and industrial installations to residential areas. Storage systems can respond quickly to fluctuations in electricity supply and demand, improving the stability and reliability of the power grid. Storage systems can be used to cope with peak loads, reducing the need for grid infrastructure expansion and saving costs. If a business is looking to expand, storage can be of help while they wait for a larger connection. Today, storage mainly acts to support the grid, and solve bottlenecks. Meanwhile, at iwell, we are building smart energy systems; By adding intelligence to battery systems, we take on the role of energy flow ‘conductor’ at our customers.

Insufficient grid capacity

By introducing batteries, the use of renewable sources becomes easier, as you don’t have to connect directly to the grid. We believe that both energy demand and production will continue to rise, so storage will remain part of the solution for a longer period of time – even once the grids are reinforced. Battery systems act as a buffer between energy generation, uptake, and consumption, allowing clean energy to be used more efficiently. The smart battery system ensures you can also place solar panels in a congestion area, storing generated energy instead of feeding it back. In this way you can become (almost) independent of the limited energy grid while still growing your business sustainably.

Clean, affordable energy for all: one of the great challenges of our time

Fortunately, this topic is already receiving some attention. Reduction of grid usage ‘transmission tariffs’ for battery systems is also being discussed. This would help make all kinds of interesting business cases possible. In essence, a battery is now seen as an ‘ordinary’ grid user, in which you store energy, and therefore also pay a transport tariff. But of course, a battery does much more: it returns energy to the grid, contributing to grid stability and making it possible to connect more solar and wind energy. I think governments should support that. The Dutch government wants to become more sustainable, and storage is one of the things you can tweak to realize this. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind offer variable yields and are dependent on weather conditions. Energy storage can accommodate the fluctuations in energy production by storing excess energy when production is high and releasing it when demand exceeds production.

In the end, it’s all about a combination of factors: in addition to storage, it is necessary to look at improving energy efficiency in buildings, industries, and transport, developing and expanding smart electricity grids, as well as new policies and regulations. Aligning and optimizing all these elements is essential for achieving the energy transition.

Arc Flash Compliance-study with HyTEPS

In Utrecht Lage Weide, iwell has installed a large battery system that allows power company Eneco to use stored power to balance incoming and outgoing energy on the power grid. The plant can now cope with peaks in demand by initially making use of sustainably generated energy and gradually scaling up the plant’s production capacity. This reduces gas consumption. We also use Tesla BESS systems for this – and Tesla requires Arc Flash calculations to be done before any (maintenance) work may be carried out. As far as I know, an Arc Flash Compliance study is not mandatory in the Netherlands, but is mandatory in the USA, for example. Personally, I feel companies have a kind of moral obligation to do this, for the personal safety of people who work around and on the installations.

One of our partners recommended HyTEPS conduct an Arc Flash Compliance study. Such a study deals with the safety and compliance with standards related to arc flash in electrical systems. HyTEPS simulated the behavior of safety systems in our installation. This showed that we had to adjust certain settings of circuit breakers and our protection policy so that an excessive amount of electrical energy would not be transferred to a person in the event of a short circuit. The new settings of the protective devices reduce the energy level released during an arc flash and at the same time ensure coordination between all protective devices in the short-circuit and instantaneous range. By making changes to the installation, cabinets are safer. The required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can also be defined for each cabinet, as well as arc flash labels with relevant information for the employee to work safely.

HyTEPS has certainly helped us to improve the installation security concept. Working with HyTEPS was very enjoyable. They ask smart questions in order to precisely understand our needs and requirements. Personally, I also liked the fact that HyTEPS employs people from all over the world, partly from an ideological background.

 

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