Sustainable Energy

Is this a revolution in energy storage?

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Energy storage: The next step

Many of us take "the grid" for granted — but without it, society would cease to function. Our homes, offices and communities all depend on the energy infrastructure to supply a reliable, steady stream of power.

Yet every grid has its limitations. "The grid can only transport a certain amount of electricity, the reason being the actual physical construction of the cables," Clemens Triebel, Chief Visionary Officer of Germany's Younicos, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy. "When too much energy wants to flow, they will overheat – just as in every home there is a fuse and that will simply shut off."

So then the problem becomes how to store this excess energy. When it comes to renewables like solar and wind, the challenges facing energy storage are manifold, because while these sources are good for the planet, they do not promise a constant stream of power.

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The idea is that the Younicos storage system is able to react quickly to the peaks and troughs of energy demand, lessening the need for conventional power stations which, while quick, can cause pollution.

Younicos' vision is for a totally renewable energy supply and the company states that "energy storage is the key to increase the hybridization of renewable and conventional energy systems and maintain grid stability."

With this in mind, Younicos has developed both battery technology and intelligent software to help boost energy storage. The batteries used by the company include lithium-ion high power batteries, sodium-sulphur high capacity batteries, vanadium-redox-flow batteries and hybrid batteries.

So far, Younicos has installed over 20 energy storage projects across the world, totaling almost 100 megawatts.

Sophisticated software is also key to Younicos' vision. Their technology center in Berlin-Adlershof enables the company to, "develop, test, optimize and demonstrate our renewable energy systems."

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Using a range of data that includes information on the wind and sun, the center is able to simulate power consumption and generation.

"We are playing with the grid's dynamics to try to discover how much more rotating mass we'll actually need when we have more wind and sun energy in the grid and how many batteries it will take to stabilize the network," Triebel said.

"Basically, what we are doing here is reproducing 2050 in Europe, we are preparing here for the future," he added.