By Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi
How a smart battery system in Scotland could advance renewable energy-powered electricity grids in the UAE, writes Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, CEO of Masdar
Bobbing in the water 25km off the coast of northeast Scotland are the five colossal wind turbines of the world’s first commercial-scale floating wind farm.
Jointly developed by Equinor of Norway and Masdar of Abu Dhabi, Hywind Scotland may only be relatively small in scale at 30 megawatts (enough capacity to power roughly 6,000 homes), but it is at the forefront of the technological drive to unlock the immense power of the elements to produce electricity sustainably.
Following the project’s unveiling last October, Masdar and Equinor are now working together to maximise the full commercial potential of Hywind Scotland’s electricity output with the help of an intelligent battery system.
“Batwind”, officially launched on June 27, is the world’s first battery storage solution connected to an offshore wind farm. It aims to make wind power a more reliable electricity source, capable of feeding the electricity grid even when the wind isn’t blowing.
Installed at the onshore substation connecting Hywind Scotland, Batwind has a storage capacity of 1.2 megawatt-hours, equivalent to 1.3 million iPhones.
Using sophisticated data-analysis algorithms, it determines when to store and then release electricity when it is most needed, and for the best market price.
It is helping us to understand how storage technologies can improve the operational and cost efficiency of renewable energy power plants, and allows new commercial opportunities.
The technical innovation being introduced through Batwind is reinforcing the global energy leadership of the UAE”
Energy storage is key to unlocking the full potential of renewable energy by addressing the intermittency of solar and wind. Electricity grids are real-time systems and have to continuously match supply and demand to ensure smooth operation. Therefore, the intermittency of the sun and the wind is a challenge. Storage solutions address this challenge by allowing operators to obtain electricity on demand.
Today, Lithium-ion batteries are the most promising storage technology available. Beginning with batteries for portable consumer electronics, investment has been targeted at improving chemical properties, reducing cost and expanding their use.
Ongoing R&D is focused on increasing full-charge cycles and improving degradation rates; reducing size and weight; increasing charging rates and improving tolerance to abnormally hot weather.
While significant hurdles remain, the trends are clear: large manufacturing facilities are now coming online in Korea, China, Japan and elsewhere, a promising sign for further improvements to come. In terms of cost, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that battery pack costs have declined by 80 percent, from $1,000/KWh in 2010 to around $200/KWh today, with another 50 percent reduction expected in the coming decade.
This is clearly great news. Incremental improvements open up new applications, from the electrification of transportation to stationary, grid-connected batteries, like Batwind. And innovation doesn’t stop there. Advances in Internet-of-Things (IOT) applications, coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) methods for crunching large amounts of data are bringing about a new era of digitisation. The potential for operating efficiencies is indeed remarkable. Large-scale projects recently launched in Australia and new tenders issued in Jordan, Morocco and elsewhere, are a recognition of this potential.
To promote the further adoption of intelligent utility-scale battery systems, real-world performance data must be obtained. That is why this project is so crucial; it will help to demonstrate to the rest of the world that such technology makes commercial sense.
At Masdar, we understand the importance of taking advanced technologies from the laboratory into the field – and even the sea.
An early adopter of energy storage solutions, we developed three solar power plants in Spain that use molten salt technology to store energy as heat to produce electricity 24 hours a day. Meanwhile, Masdar City in Abu Dhabi hosts the Electrical Energy Storage Solutions Hub (EESSH), which allows companies to test their electrical energy storage technologies in the arid climate of the Arabian Gulf. Finally, energy storage is a key theme of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week that Masdar hosts every January.
The technical innovation being introduced through Batwind is reinforcing the global energy leadership of the UAE. The lessons learned in a windy corner of Scotland may have major implications for renewable energy development, here in the Middle East and many countries around the world.
Further innovation in energy storage is critical if we are to meet the MENA region’s ambitious renewable energy targets, and to ensure the availability of clean power, even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun is not shining.
Hywind Scotland isn’t the only investment overseas by Masdar
The Hywind Scotland project supplies approximately 6,600 homes and displaces 63,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. It is Masdar’s second offshore wind partnership with Equinor after the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm in the English North Sea. Combined with London Array, currently the world’s largest offshore wind farm in operation, the projects bring the total capacity of the UK renewable energy projects in which Masdar is an investor to over one gigawatt (GW).
Since 2006, Masdar has invested in renewable energy projects with a combined value of $8.5bn; the company’s share of this investment is $2.7bn. Besides the UK, Masdar’s renewable energy projects are located in the UAE, Jordan, Mauritania, Egypt, Morocco, Montenegro, Serbia and Spain.
The electricity generating capacity of these projects, which are either fully operational or under development, is around three gigawatts (GW) gross.