The classic debate within solar industry has been over the fact that solar panels generate energy during day time and therefore cannot inherently become primary energy source. Grid as virtual storage of excess energy is fast becoming a ‘castle in the air’ as solar energy is gaining a larger and larger share within the energy mix pie and therefore cannot be neglected due to its growing size and significance. Our blinding and growing fascination with solar energy has lead us into striving harder in finding ways in which this drawback can be circumvented.
A lot of resources have been dedicated into finding ways by which this ‘excess’ energy from PV systems can be trapped and released on later time in order to utilize PV systems optimally. One system that is coming out, surprisingly, is the conventional battery banks. Just today, California has asked all utilities to incorporate battery bank systems within its network to over come the dichotomy of haves and have-nots of PV energy. A so called bridge between two phases in essence – is being contrived using battery bank.
Being an eternal averse of batteries as I am, I strongly urge the authorities to consider wider options than just throwing something unreasonable, just because you can. I need to divulge into the detrimental qualities of batteries to project the ruinous nature of the batteries. It is really important however that a clear thought is given to the idea of storage.
A problem we are talking about is so called valley being created by PV system in the primary energy demand. Instead of ‘clipping’ the peak, PV now creates a valley during the day time which leads to extra pressure on the primary sources of energy during early morning hours and more importantly in the evenings, when people – after having worked an entire day – go back home and switch on their air conditioners and television sets. This is called secondary peaks. One major peak is disappearing and two smaller peaks are being created.
A classic example again of operations – you optimize a bottle neck and another bottle neck emerges. What do you do? You move on to optimize the new bottleneck and keep doing so until you have no bottle necks, which essentially is in perpetuity.
In PV industry, how is this being addressed? The so called new bottle neck is being brushed under the run by evening it out as if it never existed – by creating battery banks to even out the bottle neck. Here is why the idea is grossly wrong. Operations management does not propose to even out the bottlenecks as a flat playing ground. It instead says that you need to go behind the secondary bottle necks instead of evening them out. Here we are doing the opposite.
There is another problem with this strategy. Lets assume at this time, we have excess energy from PV system of 10MWhr, and you create this storage to spread this excess energy out. This by no means is the end of it. With the rate at which PV installations are growing, we’ll have a need of 100MWhr storage within 2 years. So, are we going to constantly grow the storage until we generate all our energy during day time and store all of our needs of night in the batteries. Remember, this becomes even messy when you include the fact the our energy consumption grows as our life style grows. So, the battery bank will have to be added constantly. Hmmm.
So, if not leveling out, what is the way out. I say, let us remain classical in our approach. Let us kick in our standby generators whenever required. I strongly believe (and have some numbers to back it up) that this will only be more economical than introducing storage in batteries. Well, it will costs us more to generate during night time. So what? Let us charge the consumers more for using electricity at this time.
Storage is NOT the way forward. Investing in finding good mix of renewable energies keeping the conventional sources as underlying means will probably guide us in right direction. Say no to batteries.