PH innovates battery energy storage

Published November 5, 2021, 11:52 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

To ensure energy security and its sustainability, the Philippines is making headway in advancing the technology of energy storage to abate the intermittency of variable renewable energy (VRE) sources.

Battery energy storage system (BESS) is now produced locally at a manufacturing facility in Batangas by Amber Kinetics, an American company founded by Dr. Seth Sanders, a PhD degree holder in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The subsidiary supplies the BESS needs of key markets in the Asia Pacific region.

BESS production in the country highlights the exceptional technical skills and ingenuity of more than 60 Filipino talents in the manufacturing of flywheel energy storage system (FESS). It is a production process that employs kinetic energy in a rotating mass, instead of using the typical electrochemical batteries.

Edgar Chua, chief executive officer (CEO) of Amber Kinetics said that the Philippines “is in a unique geographical location to cater to the Asia Pacific and Oceania region for exporting battery energy storage system.” He said this will also re-establish the country’s commanding spot in global commerce, narrating history’s precept that “many countries fought for the Philippines as a center for Asian trade.”

Chua said that the FESS or kinetic energy storage venture of Amber Kinetics is a magnificent “technological breakthrough” because “it shows that the country has the ability to stand out and show the capabilities of the Filipino people as a whole.”

Since FESS is now being fabricated in the Philippines, it has become accessible and will help ensure energy security. This technology for energy security is needed to re-position renewables as more reliable source of energy and to underpin “decarbonization aspirations” including the mid-century net zero targets to avoid egregious warming that could be extremely harmful to the planet and humanity.

Chua said Amber Kintetics is planning to manufacture 10 times its current capacity by 2030. “The goal is to branch out to various manufacturing locations around the world depending on how the different markets react to energy storage,” he stressed.

With disruptions reshaping the energy sector, solar and wind renewables are undisputedly taking the center stage but industrial innovation and engineering are also paramount elements to attain success not just in the “energy transition” pathway but in establishing anchors to energy security, according to experts.

Energy storage with VRE sources and improving the reliability of power grids and reinforcing the load networks of distribution utilities are part of energy security.

“Revolution” in energy storage systems

In the transformative track of energy investments, if renewables like wind and solar are having their lunch like a prince, it’s the sphere of battery energy storage that will soon be eating their breakfast like a king because further innovation that will place them on commercial scale will be the needed support to stabilize VRE’s problematic grid integrations while also providing more efficient as well as lower cost electricity services to consumers.

FESS technology is considered “a revolution in energy storage systems’ because the manufacturing and deployment of such battery storage veers away from the usual environmental and human right assaults associated with electrochemical battery storage like in lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

In the case of Li-ion, there are concerns of eventual waste disposal and the use of cobalt as raw material in battery production has likewise been linked to human rights violations as well as poor mining standards, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo where 60 percent of cobalt supply for batteries are being sourced.

A third party technical review by DNV, an international classification society based in Norway, has stipulated that Amber Kinetics flywheels versus Li-ion batteries is “non-toxic and inert materials, recyclable, at least two times longer cycle lifetime, no capacity degradation, no fire safety risk, lower environmental impact and no need for HVAC.”

It added that the flywheel battery of Amber Kinetics “demonstrates consistent operation cost advantage over Li-ion systems in power rating, energy capacity and cycling.”

Chua emphasized that “cost-wise, the Amber Kinetics energy storage systems are very competitive compared to other available battery energy storage systems,” and it can also “provide 100 percent of stored energy as compared to electrochemical batteries that can only provide a maximum of 80 percent of the nameplate capacity and a need to retain 10-percent state of charge, so as not to degrade the cells faster.”

And in the case of the Philippines which is frequently tormented by harsh weather conditions and natural disasters such as strong typhoons and earthquakes, the flywheel energy storage is also designed and installed to withstand extreme calamities.

The core problems that FESS can address in power systems include easing off dilemmas of power service interruptions or rotational blackouts, not just in massive scale integration of renewables but in managing the inherent need for reserves of power grids.

“The huge demand for electricity has led to power outages not only in the Philippines, but all over the world. This problem is compounded by the need to balance investments in new power generation facilities with the global call for decarbonization,” Chua noted.

Given the fast response and ramp-up feature of FESS, Chua said this “can stabilize, if not mitigate, the effect of the variability of renewables and this can also stabilize system frequency deviations caused by RE integration.”

He added that if “more energy storage of this kind will be installed in the system, this will result in higher penetration of RE in the energy mix.” Hence, in the case of the Philippines, this is aligned as tailor-fitted solution in the aim to integrate 44,000 to 71,000 megawatts of RE over the long term.

In a power grid’s need for prudent power reserves, the company CEO expounded that FESS can address system requirement for ancillary services for frequency response, or the kind of power reserve “to maintain grid frequency within pre-set limits.”

The Amber Kinetics battery storage is also ideal in the provision of operating reserves, because it has capability for “fast-response to random unpredictable variations in demand and generation, such as generator failure and/or replacing spinning and non-spinning reserves.”

Additionally, FESS could provide reliable capacity “to meet peak system demand,” and it will also enable power utilities to defer investments for the upgrade of transmission and distribution facilities, therefore, they can avoid massive capital spending for grid infrastructure or network reinforcement investments because the technology has innate congestion and outage mitigation proficiencies.

On concerns linked to consumers’ pockets, better cost management can also be achieved by power firms because energy storage creates “arbitrage opportunities” wherein energy is stored when price is low, and sell it when prices would go up — in that way then, it can cushion cost impact on consumers’ electric bills.

 
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