Use cases for battery storage in medium-sized companies.
How does battery storage in industry contribute to cost savings and security of supply?
Battery storage has been a topic in the discussion on the design of the energy transition for quite some time. In view of the falling prices for lithium-ion batteries and other technologies, the development has picked up even more speed. What has worked on a small scale for households with solar power systems and on a large scale as a power plant and contribution to grid stability for quite some time, is now also increasingly being used in commerce and industry.
But what tasks can batteries perform in corporate energy supply? What are the potential savings and other benefits? And what needs to be considered when designing storage solutions?
In the following article, we would like to present an overview of the most important use cases of electricity storage in companies.
Decentralized generation systems such as photovoltaics or combined heat and power (CHP) units have found their place in many industrial and commercial enterprises. However, in view of falling compensation rates for feeding electricity into the grid and rising electricity prices at the same time, it is becoming increasingly lucrative to consume the generated electricity yourself as far as possible.
However, few companies can match their electricity consumption to their own generation and "wait until the sun shines". Batteries can decouple generation and consumption through intermediate storage, thus reducing electricity costs without disrupting operations.
In addition to self-generation, it is also possible to temporarily store electricity that is generated by operating systems with energy recovery (e.g. crane systems, braking systems) and is otherwise fed back into the grid - usually without compensation.
Reducing (ancillary) electricity costs
When it comes to purchasing electricity, the pure energy price per kilowatt hour accounts for an increasingly smaller share. The various fees, charges and levies can account for up to 50% of the costs. In the case of large consumers, the power price per kilowatt and, if applicable, costs for increased reactive power purchases are usually added. Battery storage systems offer different levers to reduce the above-mentioned costs:
Peak load reduction usually offers the greatest savings potential. Here, too, battery storage systems can reduce costs by decoupling them over time, in that the power supply is partly covered by the storage system from a certain operational power requirement. This saves costs - and also reduces the load on the local power grid.
If the electricity is not consumed by the company itself, it can also be offered on various markets at certain times. Electricity storage facilities with a high capacity can participate in the balancing energy market (if necessary, the capacity required for this can also be achieved by the virtual combination of several storage facilities - so-called pooling). Batteries also make it much easier and more lucrative to sell (and buy) on the power exchanges, where prices fluctuate over time, because the times of generation/purchase and feed-in/consumption can be decoupled.
Secure power supply
We all depend on a secure and continuous power supply. While in most businesses an interruption in supply can have serious consequences simply due to the cost of operational downtime, in certain facilities such as hospitals it can even be a matter of life and death. Despite the high level of supply reliability of our power grids, it is therefore often necessary to set up an emergency power supply. These are also widely used for emergency lighting of escape routes and for IT and communications systems to prevent data loss.
Since such emergency power systems are very rarely used in this country, the battery storage systems used can also be used for other applications and thus be made more economical - as long as this does not impair the task of uninterruptible power supply.
In addition to supply security, however, battery storage can also increase the quality of the power supply by, for example, balancing the reactive power balance, acting as a mains filter (thus eliminating flicker or harmonics) or increasing the short-circuit voltage. All these factors increase the service life and ensure the proper operation of sensitive operating equipment.
Avoiding grid expansion
Companies connected to the medium-voltage grid are responsible for installing and operating their transformers themselves, which involves high investment costs. If operational electricity demand increases over time, this can lead to overloading of the transformers and necessitate replacement unless the purchased load is adjusted accordingly. Battery storage can also be used here to shift the load; in addition to lowering the power price, this can also save the acquisition costs for the new transformers and operate the existing ones more efficiently by adjusting the operating point.
A special case of storage application is the so-called stand-alone operation of off-grid systems with electricity demand, if a connection to the utility grid for these systems is fraught with high technical or financial hurdles. A combination of self-generation (e.g. with photovoltaics) and battery storage can make the connection unnecessary in many cases.
Conclusion: A wide range of possible applications
Battery storage offers industrial and commercial enterprises a variety of potential savings and can significantly increase the security and quality of the power supply. With the right design and operational management, their (still quite high) investment costs are amortized quite quickly; operation is low-maintenance and only associated with low running costs. At the same time, operational processes are not impaired and the service life of plants is increased.
The acquisition of storage units is most lucrative when several of the presented use cases can be combined. Even batteries already in operation, which already fulfill one of the functions, can take over further tasks in the operational power supply through adapted operational management.
However, this multifunctional use of storage systems places high demands on planning. In particular, detailed information about the temporal distribution of power consumption in the company is necessary for a precisely fitting design and control.
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