Most renewable energy is intermittent. To be fully effective, therefore, it needs to be teamed with energy storage.Until recently, energy storage has been too expensive. Now, however, prices are beginning to drop.
Electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla grabbed headlines a while back with the announcement of its Powerwall battery for home use. Now Daimler is out with a clever community-scale offering. As you'll read, they are "recycling" old EV batteries to create a 13-megawatt system for the German city of Lünen.
By re-using EV batteries, Daimler helps keep costs down. By building at the community scale, Daimler is making it possible for a district, neighborhood, campus or office park to pool resources to set up cost-efficient storage. -- Jesse Berst
When Council Lead Partner Daimler installs its EV battery-based energy storage unit in the Westphalia town of Lünen early next year the 13-megawatt system will be what the company describes as the world's largest storage unit operating with batteries taken from its plug-in and electric vehicles. Daimler also plans to offer the system to grid operators for power balancing.
While the batteries are no longer usable in vehicles, Daimler said they will function in stationary energy storage for 10 years or longer. The primary benefits of the re-purposed batteries are easy to understand. As Daimler put it "The process demonstrably improves the environmental performance of electric vehicles, thereby helping to make e-mobility more economically efficient." It also helps that the extended lifecycle adds value to the batteries themselves.
Why does energy storage matter to cities?
One of the key elements of smart cities strategies is sustainability, which renewable energy -- most prominently solar -- provides. More utilities and cities with municipal utilities are providing renewable energy as both consumers and regulators demand it. But without energy storage, power demand and output must be the same -- and because solar power generation is variable and intermittent that balance isn't possible. That's where energy storage comes in, to perform the balancing act of keeping power in reserve until demand increases and it's needed. Renewable energy plus storage systems are growing in popularity not only with homeowners, but businesses as well. They like energy storage because they can keep power on hand and avoid the frequently hefty demand charges they would pay if they took power from the grid during periods of peak demand.
Daimler is partnering on the Lünen installation with The Mobility House AG and GETEC. A fourth partner, REMONDIS, will be responsible for reclaiming and recycling the raw materials when the batteries' life cycle in storage systems is over. The partners also are using the project to plot out the entire process, from battery value creation through the recycling process.
Possible bottlenecks for European storage
There may be some regulatory issues in the future for energy storage system producers in Europe. As an article in energy post reports, Europe's 2009 Energy Directive fails to mention electricity storage at all (although it does address gas storage). As an article in energy post points out, storage should be a key element of the region's Energy Union goals of more renewable energy, energy security and energy market integration. As a result grid operators may be unwilling to adopt energy storage because it isn't addressed in their fee structure, and regulations differ from country to country.
However, Daimler and partners are now focused on their installation and affirming the useful life of an EV battery doesn't end when it is no longer in a car.
Energy storage: hot on the heels of the renewables wave
Vehicle-to-grid energy storage: One step closer to reality in Europe
Double dose of smart energy: Mercedes-Benz launches energy storage business