Key technology trends in battery storage 2022-2030: Sungrow Q&A

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PV inverter manufacturer Sungrow’s energy storage division has been involved in battery energy storage system (BESS) solutions since 2006. It shipped 3GWh of energy storage globally in 2021.

Its energy storage business has expanded to become a provider of turnkey, integrated BESS, including Sungrow’s in-house power conversion system (PCS) technology. 

The company ranked in the top 10 global BESS system integrators in IHS Markit’s annual survey of the space for 2021. 

Aiming at everything from the residential space to large-scale — with a major focus on solar-plus-storage at utility-scale — we ask Andy Lycett, Sungrow’s country manager for the UK and Ireland, for his views on the trends that might shape the industry in the years to come. 

What are some of the key technology trends that you think will shape energy storage deployment in 2022?

Thermal Management of battery cells is of vital importance to the performance and longevity of any ESS system. With the exception of the number of duty cycles, and the age of the batteries, it has the greatest impact on performance.

The lifetime of batteries is greatly affected by the thermal management. The better the thermal management, the longer the lifetime combined with higher resultant usable capacity. There are two main approaches to cooling technology: air-cooling and liquid cooling, Sungrow believe that liquid cooled battery energy storage will start to dominate the market in 2022.

This is because liquid cooling enables cells to have a more uniform temperature throughout the system whilst using less input energy, stopping overheating, maintaining safety, minimising degradation and enabling higher performance. 

The Power Conversion System (PCS) is the key piece of equipment that connect the battery with the grid, converting DC stored energy into AC transmissible energy.

Its capability to provide different grid services in addition to this function will affect deployment. Because of the rapid development of renewable energy, grid operators are exploring the potential capability of BESS to support with power system stability, and are rolling out a variety of grid services. 

For example, [in the UK], Dynamic Containment (DC) was launched in 2020 and its success has paved the way for Dynamic Regulation (DR)/Dynamic Moderation (DM) in early 2022.

Apart from these frequency services, National Grid also rolled out the Stability Pathfinder, a project to find the most cost-effective ways to address stability issues on the network. This includes assessing the inertia and Short-Circuit contribution of grid-forming based inverters. These services can not only help to build up a robust network, but also provide significant revenue for customers.

So the functionality of the PCS to provide different services will affect the choice of BESS system. 

DC-Coupled PV+ESS will start to play a more important role, as existing generation assets look to optimise performance.

PV and BESS are playing important role in the progress to net-zero. The combination of these two technologies have been explored and applied in lots of projects. But most of them are AC-coupled. 

The DC-coupled system can save the CAPEX of primary equipment (inverter system/transformer, etc), reduce the physical footprint, improve conversion efficiency and decrease PV production curtailment in the scenario of high DC/AC ratios, which can be of commercial benefit.

These hybrid systems will make PV output more controllable and dispatchable which will increase the value of the generated electricity. What’s more, the ESS system will be able to absorb energy at cheap times when the connection would otherwise be redundant, thus sweating the grid connection asset. 

Longer duration energy storage systems will also start to proliferate in 2022. 2021 was certainly the year of the emergence of utility-scale PV in the UK. The scenarios that suit long-duration energy storage including peak shaving, capacity market; improvement of the grid utilisation ratio to reduce transmission costs; easing peak load demands to reduce capacity upgrade investment, and ultimately reducing electricity costs and carbon intensity.

The market is calling for long term energy storage. We believe that 2022 will kick off the era of such technology. 

Hybrid Residential BESS will play an important role in the green energy production / consumption revolution at household level. Cost -effective, safe, Hybrid residential BESS which combine the roof’s PV, battery and a bi-directional plug-and-play inverter to achieve a home microgrid. With the rise in energy costs biting and technology ready to help make the change, we expect rapid take-up in this area. 

tech trends with Sungrow
Sungrow’s new ST2752UX liquid-cooled battery energy storage system with an AC-/DC-coupling solution for utility-scale power plants. Image: Sungrow.

How about in the years between now and 2030 — what might some of the longer-term tech trends influencing deployment be? 

There are several factors that will affect energy storage system deployment between 2022 to 2030.

The development of new battery cell technologies that can be put into commercial application will further push forward the rollout of energy storage systems. In the last few months, we have seen the huge jump in the raw material costs of lithium which leads to a price increase of energy storage systems. This may not be economically sustainable.

We expect that in the next decade, there will be lots of innovation in flow battery and liquid-state to solid-state battery field developments. Which technologies become viable will depend on the cost of raw materials and how quickly new concepts can be brought to market.

With the increased speed of deployment of battery energy storage systems since 2020, battery recycling has to be taken into consideration in the next few years when achieving the ‘End-of-Life’. This is very important to maintain a sustainable environment.

There are already many research institutions working on battery recycling research. They are focusing on themes such as ‘cascade utilisation’ (making use of resources sequentially) and ‘direct dismantling’. The energy storage system should be designed to allow ease of recycling.

The grid network structure will also affect the deployment of energy storage systems. At the end of 1880s, there was a battle for dominance of the electricity network between AC system and DC systems.

AC won, and is now the foundation of the electricity grid, even in the 21st century. However, this situation is changing, with high penetration of power electronic systems since the last decade. We can see the quick development of DC power systems from high-voltage (320kV, 500kV, 800kV, 1100kV) to DC Distribution Systems.

Battery energy storage may follow this change of network in the next decade or so.

Hydrogen is a very hot topic regarding the development of future energy storage systems. There is no doubt that Hydrogen will play an important role in the energy storage domain. But during the journey of hydrogen development, existing renewable technologies will also contribute massively. 

There are already some experimental projects using PV+ESS to provide power to electrolysis for hydrogen production. ESS will guarantee a green/uninterrupted power supply during the production process.

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