Special Report

Energy storage system: Aiming for tomorrow’s solar vitality

Storage is meant to bring stability to an infirm life. If set up domestically, it is bound to make solar more exciting than ever. However, there is still miles to go before we achieve solar storage! Here, we do industry analysis on what can and needs to be done to bring about an energy storage revolution in India.

We are in a decade where India needs a clean energy revolution for transforming the electricity infrastructure to provide energy access to over 400 million of households that still lack basic access to electricity. Consumers, however, bear a large burden because of poor quality and unreliable power supply. Here, energy storage systems can play a key role in every part of the modern grid in India.

Setting up India’s storage home for solar
Energy storage in the solar sector is being considered the next big wave, as its technology is the key to popularising solar energy generation.

Sunil Rathi, Director, Waaree Energies, says, “As we look at the extensive energy requirement of 100 GW, large-scale storage technologies are being promoted by the government as the need of the hour. It is also constantly striving to bring storage players into the mainstream sector.”

Over the last few years, we have seen the conversation around renewable energy become increasingly universal, especially with the topic of ‘Green Energy’ drawing the attention of people across the country. This, as a result, has ensured the growth of the potential market for solar home storage in India. “In order to facilitate the growth, it is key to provide breakthrough technology that is safe to handle, high-performing, rugged, long lasting, and reliable”, Sunil Rathi adds.

With around 70 GW of renewable energy capacity connected to India’s national grid, the renewable industry continues to grow at a rapid pace but the transmission infrastructure needs to be looked very closely. There is a serious concern whether transmission infrastructure can handle so much of power generation at such a rapid pace. This issue needs to be seriously addressed.

Shashi Shekhar, CEO, Vimal Fire Controls opines, “The cumulative target of achieving circuit kilometers of transmission lines should be in sync with the cumulative capacities of solar power generation. On account of unavailability of evacuation facilities, projects have already been hit as they are not able to get the authorisation to utilise connection bays. The inter-state transmission system needs to be enhanced.”

As per the MNRE target, India is aiming for > 100 GW capacity installations by 2022, across the country. However, we need to understand the energy transmission and grid stability aspects quite cautiously, to avoid side effects of this growth.

Ravindra Prakash Dubey, MD, Granzor Engineering Pvt Ltd, conveyed, “Though the government encourages for distributed the installations in various states, the individual IPP’s preferences and ‘ease of business’ aspects, play an important role.” To ensure an optimal performance of the grids, the following 2 factors are quite significant:

• Maximum off grid energy generation: This is the ideal condition to avoid loads on the transmission system. But, it surely requires an efficient storage system.
• MW on-grid systems supported by the MW size storage systems for Grid stabilisation.

“In both the above cases, we need small to heavy storage systems. I feel the storage systems available in India are certainly insufficient for the grid stabilisation.
We need to work on flow battery banks which could be most preferred for medium and large energy storage. Some companies are working on this technology in India, but still have a long way to stabilise and commercialise it. However, I expect the flow batteries technology needs proper government support for its growth and promotion, to ensure smooth implementation of 100 GW target.”

Animesh Manek, Managing Director, Avishakti Rooftop Solar Pvt Ltd also talks in favour of the battery technology. According to him, “The only reliable option present today for storage of electrical energy is battery technology. Batteries today not only add up a major chunk to the initial costs but require heavy maintenance. This hampers the growth of the domestic small-scale-large-potential residential sector. However, several rural villages have been able to adopt solar solutions with energy storage with the help of several financial incentives given by the government.”

Energy storage is primarily required in rural areas where grid-connected systems are not reliable due to load shedding and large-scale utility power plants where solar power generation is unstable and uneven. Power transmission can be smoothened out and fluctuation of energy output be balanced. As is the case with PV modules, batteries are also at large imported from foreign manufacturers.

Animesh further adds, “Unless India bumps up its battery manufacturing industry to create larger volumes or new battery technologies/manufacturing processes are developed, PV development may not increase at the rapid rate that is expected.”

According to forecasts by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the energy storage market may be valued at $ 250 billion by 2040. Government of India must create a three-pronged policy to support technology, R&D of storage solutions in India, increase domestic consumption through initial subsidies and provide conducive export conditions to Indian batteries to drive manufacturing and job growth in this sector.

Siddharth Gangal, Co-Founder & CEO at The Solar Labs observed, “Storage is still nascent as compared to solar panel manufacturing and India may yet come out to be the world leader.”
Solar PV capacity, even if it reaches 100 GW, is a very small share of the total power requirement of India. As per Central Electricity Authority of India, grid connected solar accounted for 2 per cent of total energy pumped into the grid. Solar generation meets the peak load in mid-day and is usually consumed not needing to be stored as of 2018. “As the percentage of solar capacity increases, storage becomes crucial as solar is an intermittent source of energy,” Siddhasth adds.

The Indian renewable energy sector requires strong support in the form of a dynamic energy storage industry in order to uphold its growth movement.
Vishwanathan Iyer, Head- Business Development, Hybrid and Energy Storage Solutions says, “Energy storage is becoming a key play in the global energy scenario and will continue to grow in the probable future. To fill this gap in the demand and supply, India is looking at huge investments to create a positive market for energy storage.”

With the right policy support, large scale solar parks of 100 MW and above could easily integrate energy storage to help improve the power quality and reliability issues that the grid can face with the rapid integration of solar energy. The recent 160 MW solar-wind-storage hybrid project tender by SECI is a good beginning towards the same. As per projections, India could attract investments in the manufacturing of energy storage technologies to a substantial amount of $6 billion.

Significant demand for energy storage is expected from newer uses such as the integration of wind and solar, diesel replacement, frequency regulation, transmission and distribution deferral, peak management and electric vehicles. The solution is for India to create a scheme to transform itself into a global core for energy storage solutions, adds Vishwanathan.

Technologies driving the solar home storage
The majority of new home energy storage technologies plan to use some form of lithium ion chemical composition. Lithium ion batteries are lighter and more compact than lead acid batteries. They also have a higher DoD and longer lifespan when compared to lead acid batteries. However, lithium ion batteries are costlier than the lead acid ones.

Shashi Shekhar of Vimal Fire Controls states,” One can’t deny the fact that lead acid batteries are a tested technology that has been used in off- grid energy systems for decades. They have relatively short life and lower do. They are also one of the least expensive options in the home energy storage sector currently in the market. For those who want to go off the grid and need to install lots of energy storage, at present, lead acid can be a good option.”

Ravindra Prakash Dubey of Granzor Engineering observes,” If we talk about rural India, we need to ensure maintenance free and ion-life solutions. There, the storage space is not an issue and so, the flow batteries should be the best option. However, for urban India, Li-ion technology seems best suited. Both these technologies need to be commercialised to bring down the costs. Again, the government need to do a brain storming session with R&D Institutions, industries and all other stake holders on a continuous basis. Mere one time or intermittent attention/activity is least likely to fetch results. “

The interaction and engagement with leading organisations across the world, also need to be taken on board. The level and degree of importance should be same as that on the push for 100 GW solar generation. Ravindra adds, “It would also be pertinent to understand that flow batteries work on 48 V only. Hence, the present charging controllers and inverters are handicapped for an efficient application. The existing DC-DC and DC-AC systems need to be modified. There are only few companies in the world who specialise in this system. We need to work with them very closely for technology tie ups and production cum after sales networks in India.”

Animesh of Avishakti Rooftop Solar Pvt Ltd favors the batteries too but also votes for fuel cells. He insists,” Batteries are without a doubt running the energy storage industry today. But another possible option that could take a strong hold in replacing batteries are fuel cells. Fuel cells take in electricity as the input and give out hydrogen as the output. The main ingredient? Water!”

The electricity splits up hydrogen and oxygen molecules through electrolysis. Electricity is basically stored in the form of hydrogen which can further be burnt to generate electricity with some losses in the 2-way energy conversion processes. This technology is also very suitable for electric vehicles which employ hydrogen-based engines. However, mileage offered by hydrogen engines is very low. Hence, a large tank and a larger area has to be used to generate the same amount of energy that a battery-based system occupies.

“Also, one of the biggest pitfalls of hydrogen fuel cells is the simple fact that it is very expensive to produce. As of now, the conversion is not efficient enough to produce hydrogen energy in a cost effective way,” Animesh adds.

Siddharth Gangal of The Solar Labs remarks,” India is an extremely price sensitive market which uses flooded lead acid batteries primarily. We will slowly transition from lead-acid to lithium ion.”

Lithium ion batteries have higher volumetric and gravimetric energy density, are more resilient supporting harsher temperatures, and have higher number of cycles and support faster charging/discharging rates. They do not require regular maintenance making them ideal for solar home installation.

Siddharth further adds, “It is important for manufacturers to design storage solutions that are plug and play, which will allow easier integration into designs of solar PV systems. The Tesla Powerwall is a great application of Li-ion, and we expect many more such solutions coming into the market by Indian manufacturers as well.”

Future of PV in India’s energy picture
Being a tropical country, India has abundant solar energy available throughout the year. Tapping into it effectively will help resolve the energy crisis in many regions of the country.

Sunil Rathi observes,” Certain rural areas of India are difficult to reach for transmission grids and instead can use solar power to become self-reliant. It is also heartening to see the State Governments support this initiative. Many issues pertaining to the power crisis can be resolved through concepts like smart-grid and off-grid system, and hybrid power systems, along with the current dominant energy sources such as coal and natural gas which are finite; solar has emerged as the best alternative.”

For rooftop solar, high residential solar installations are signs of a mature solar market as demonstrated by the US and Germany. Capital availability is increasing and OPEX installations are on the rise.

According to Siddharth of The Solar Labs, “In the near future, government and large C&I installations will continue to form bulk of the market. Financing and business model innovations are key to opening up residential and small commercial market and we hope to see banks and fintech companies stepping up here. India has done well so far but a lot has yet to be done to write an amazing success story.”

Keeping in mind the environmental conditions of the world, India’s energy needs and solar potential source PV, amongst all the other renewables, looks to be the most favourable. It does not have any movable parts- so no wear and tear problem, no noise pollution, long life and low component cost makes it most feasible as well. The wind energy, hydro, geothermal, ocean, nuclear, biogas etc. have much more limitations and can’t fit everywhere.

On the other hand, solar insolation is virtually available at all the locations in sufficient quantity. Solar can meet most of the requirements with sufficient support from other available resources and proper storage systems in place. Though, many technologies in PV are on its way to make it much more efficient, economic and environment friendly, our focus needs to be directed on energy efficiency, lifestyles related with carbon footprints and GHG emissions, and spread general awareness amongst masses to be solar savy and conscious about their own carbon foot prints.

Ravindra Prakash Dubey says, “I feel PV would be the key energy source of the future. Most of the R&D Institutions are incessantly working on solar vehicles, cooking systems, electric and electronic gadgets, and solar lighted and heated 100 per cent functional homes and so on. The upcoming large storage systems should be able to stabilise the grids and that would facilitate the large industrial productions and heavy duty machines as well. Simultaneously, we need to work on disintegration of ‘heavy energy centric’ processes into minuscule processes. “

In way, we can clearly see that PV would be the prime source for energy, not only for the existing processes and systems but also trigger a huge horizon for ‘multi-faceted’ R&D activities in all the segments of our existence, he concludes.

Animesh Mahek concludes by saying, “With new and innovative technologies in research, currently the future of PV solar energy is very bright. The share of PV in the entire generation mix is on the rise and it is expected to keep rising. Although it will never be 100 per cent of the entire generation but it will always stay as the major shareholder of the entire generation.” With the increased focus on renewable energy, storage is finally coming of age.

(With the increased focus on renewable energy, storage is finally coming of age)

The cumulative target of achieving circuit kilometers of transmission lines should be in sync with the cumulative capacities of solar power generation.
Shashi Shekhar, CEO, Vimal Fire Controls

“We need to work on flow battery banks which could be most preferred for medium and large energy storage.”
Ravindra Prakash Dubey of Granzor Engineering

“Unless India bumps up its battery manufacturing industry to create larger volumes of battery technologies, PV development may not increase at the rapid rate that is expected.”
Animesh Manek, Founder and Managing Director, Avishakti Rooftop Solar Pvt Ltd

“Storage is still nascent as compared to solar panel manufacturing and India may yet come out to be the world leader.”
Siddharth Gangal, Co-Founder & CEO at The Solar Labs

“Many issues pertaining to the power crisis can be resolved through concepts like smart-grid and off-grid system, and hybrid power systems”
Sunil Rathi, Director, Waaree Energies

“The solution is for India to create a scheme to transform itself into a global core for energy storage solutions.”
Vishwanathan Iyer, Head- Business Development, Hybrid and Energy Storage Solutions

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