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ION Energy’s analytics to help prevent premature degradation in esVolta’s 600MWh battery portfolio

Image: esVolta.

An analytics platform developed by India-headquartered startup ION Energy will help US project developer esVolta improve operational efficiency across its near 600MWh portfolio of battery storage systems.

Mumbai-based ION Energy has developed the software platform, called Edison Analytics, which allows battery energy storage system (BESS) owners and operators to “tweak their strategy or make operational corrections to prevent premature degradation,” of battery cells, ION Energy’s analytics lead Indresh Kumar told

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While some degradation of batteries is normal through usage and ageing, abnormal ageing and premature degradation can affect battery systems’ ability to deliver required energy and power services and ultimately affect profitability.

“The degradation rate among batteries is not uniform. Even within the same rack, different batteries might be degrading at different rates and because of different operating conditions,” Indresh Kumar said of the wider significance of such a platform for the industry.

“With thousands of packs in each project, it becomes complex to reliably spot out issues and take necessary actions. This is where data analytics and software proves useful – it can monitor each pack and float up priority actions, thus taking timely actions as the issues emerge, helping maintain safe operations and long-last batteries.”

In a 2018 technical feature article for this site, 'Is that battery cycle worth it? Maximising energy storage lifecycle value with advanced controls', first published in our quarterly journal PV Tech Power, Ben Kaun and Andres Cortes at the US Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) wrote on the subject in detail. The fact that lithium-ion batteries experience degradation over time with use should not necessarily be a limiter for their widespread use in stationary storage systems, the pair wrote, but explained that long-term strategies for their management are required

The Edison Analytics platform utilises “raw data coming from batteries to estimate their degradation,” Kumar said. Taking metrics including voltage, current and temperature, the dataset can “identify the culprits behind degradation, and determine how much each of them contributed towards overall degradation”.

Developer esVolta could reap big benefits from the platform across its 581MWh portfolio, which includes the 75MW / 300MWh Hummingbird project scheduled for commissioning towards the end of this year, aimed at helping California utility PG&E replace natural gas plants in its service area. In February this year the developer secured “around US$140 million” in a senior secured credit facility to be used for 480MWh of projects to go on California's grid and then in April was awarded a 15MW / 60MWh battery contract by California Choice Energy Authority (CalChoice), one of the US’ Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) municipal energy supply groups.

Platform aims to balance stress put on batteries against maximising revenues and usefulness

The effectiveness of Edison Analytics was piloted by esVolta at the latter’s 9MWh Millikan BESS, which came online in 2017, ordered by another of California’s investor-owned utilities, SCE, and supplied by system maker and integrator Powin Energy. Millikan was one of a number of BESS projects awarded in response to the infamous Aliso Canyon gas leak and designed to help the utility meet its Resource Adequacy requirements.

Through the pilot study, ION Energy simulated the number of required cycles the batteries at Millikan would have to perform. The company said it figured out that Edison Analytics could save esVolta as much as US$450,000 a year in deferred costs for maintaining, upgrading or replacing battery systems or cells across its portfolio of 10 grid-scale BESS projects.

The developer’s projects participate in energy arbitrage and ancillary services market opportunities, with batteries dispatching when needed to provide a match between generation and the required load on the grid.

According to ION Energy’s Indresh Kumar, equipped with the knowledge gained from the use of the analytics suite, battery operators can allow their batteries to get more “rest” during low demand periods, keep batteries at higher state of charge by “tweaking configurations” or by changing the mix of applications and services the batteries provide: “so that batteries are put under less stressful dispatches and yet book high revenues”. In other words, successful use of such a platform could have a direct impact on the business case for battery storage. 

“Improved return on investment (ROI) will attract more investment into the BESS industry. Batteries are one of the most expensive assets in the business. The useful available capacity of these batteries during operation and their eventual replacement has a direct impact on the ROI of a BESS project,” Kumar said.

The company launched the Edison Analytics platform in late 2019, having piloted it for both stationary energy storage and electric vehicle (EV) applications with clients. ION Energy realised that stationary energy storage was a rapidly growing application “with gigawatt-hours of deployment in the pipeline,” Kumar said.

Meanwhile the use of batteries in stationary applications for the grid is “unique as their cycling is in sync with energy market demand and prices,” leading the company to launch a tailored version of the “battery management and intelligence” platform, Edison Analytics BESS, which “blends embedded electronics and data analytics to improve the life and performance of lithium-ion batteries”.

DNV GL verifies effectiveness of Enel X’s storage project modelling software

While ION Energy claimed Edison Analytics BESS “combines battery, energy market and dispatch sales data into one single analytics suite and can manage gigawatt-hours of batteries with ease,” another software provider has been touting the importance of its platform before projects are even built.

The innovation arm of multinational utility Enel, Enel X, produces energy storage optimisation software called Model E which can model the performance of a storage project, “at the early stages of its customer evaluation process”.

Enel X emailed earlier this month to say that independent testing and certification group DNV GL has verified that the Model E platform uses “robust” optimisation methods and is “well designed to anticipate and extensive range of scenarios and have industry-leading capabilities in optimisation-based energy storage simulation”.

“Energy storage technologies are a major cornerstone to successfully increasing the penetration of renewables into the generation mix, and tools such as Enel X’s storage optimisation software ensure that customers can confidently install storage and realise their decarbonisation goals and utility bill savings,” DNV GL’s president for energy in the North America region, Richard S. Barnes, said.

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