Energy storages — an indispensable element of green transformation and a new direction for Apator Group. Krzysztof Kmiecik, RES Business Development Manager, Apator Group
What’s the current condition of the Polish energy sector?
Given the broad economic and political context, disturbances on the energy commodity market and dynamically rising electricity prices — from energy consumer’s perspective, the situation of the Polish energy sector may seem worrying. In view of these circumstances, we all see the need for urgent preventive action to ensure national energy security and protect both households and industrial consumers from power shortages.
The concept describing the times we live in called VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity), little-known until recently yet avowed for some time now, is becoming our reality — and it also applies to the energy industry covering the entire ecosystem of energy producers, distributors, and consumers.
Are we able to anticipate and respond appropriately to the course of events? Time will tell, but until that it is very important that we create flexible solutions to allow us to react quickly, yet expectably, to any changes.
What problems does the energy sector face? And, with them in mind, what changes await us?
Above all, our problem consists of periodic energy shortages or its oversupply due to system imbalances. On the one hand, we have large generating units based on traditional energy carriers, while on the other hand, a lot of new power based on unstable renewable sources has entered the system. Hence, there has been an increased risk of grid inefficiency on both the transmission and distribution side due to inappropriate cooperation between large and small generating units.
The changes that are already taking place concern the introduction and development of energy communities (prosumer, cluster, cooperative), which will lead to the creation of microgrids that can operate independently of the large and traditional electric power system, but which at the same time could support it in the event of the threat of the aforementioned instability.
The second direction of change is to combine different types of energy generation and distribution into a single system. Of course, it will not be interconnected at the level of heat or electricity generation or distribution, but will nevertheless be managed by a single operator (multi-energy systems). This change will also take place (in fact, it’s already happening) at the micro-grid level, whatever legal form they take. The phenomenon will increase as the price of electricity, gas, coal rises. The desire for energy independence is going to become economically viable and it will start to be realised on a large scale.
With the problems the grid is already facing, will we still see the development of photovoltaics — what role will energy storage play?
We should definitely continue the development of photovoltaics, the construction of wind turbines, biogas plants, and other green sources of electric power generation. The prerequisite for enabling such development is the removal of legal barriers and the creation of financial incentives for investors and prosumers. Another important factor is the development of modern technologies, which will become cheaper as the scale increases, bringing a beneficial economic impact on the side of companies and individuals — the beneficiaries of the development of new solutions.
Energy storages will play an important role in the energy system based on distributed sources. They will both enable the stabilisation of renewables and provide a range of additional services necessary to ensure the stability of the energy system.
What does network stabilisation actually mean? Is this where the storages become helpful? What problems can they solve?
Network stabilisation means seeking to maintain balance between generated and received power, which requires monitoring of voltage and frequency parameters at various points in the electric power system. The output of voltage and frequency parameters beyond certain thresholds leads to a deterioration of electric power quality and to unwanted and unplanned outages of consumers and/or generation sources. They very often lead to production losses in the case of industrial plants, lack of heating in dwellings, increased operating costs, damage to equipment, etc. In the case of DNOs, they force power restoration interventions, resulting in another unnecessary cost.
Storages are helpful as they provide a buffer in which we can store electric power when there’s more of it than we need or withdraw it in the event of power shortage. By doing so, we influence the maintenance of the required voltage and frequency parameters.
Who are energy storages for? Who can be their recipient?
The catalogue of services that energy storages provide allows them to be used in commercial energy sector, in industry, and in households. They can have technical (grid stabilisation) and commercial applications. For commercial applications, the idea is to take advantage of the differences in the price of electricity while being bought or sold — i.e. “charging storage” when energy is cheap (sourced from the sun or wind) and selling it when it is expensive (at peak demand). The energy reserve in storage can be used by units responsible for maintaining the stability of the electricity system (even maintaining such reserves can provide revenue). In the case of industrial plants, it is a matter of securing electric power supply, e.g. in emergency situations of shortages on the supplier’s side.
One of the uses of energy storage is to postpone large investments over time, e.g. when it is necessary to ensure continuity of power supply to consumers. In such locations where an investment in extending the electricity grid would become necessary, electric power storage can be successfully used instead as it generates lower costs than investing in grid infrastructure. As we can see, the energy storages can be used in many ways.
In an era of rising electricity costs and increased distributed PV sources, we also observe an emerging demand for energy storages from local authorities who want to participate in providing a solution to ensure the uninterruptible operation of the PV installations in which residents have invested.
How does the Apator Group respond to the needs of the new energy industry?
Recognising the development of the market and its needs, we are developing our offer basing on our long-standing experience of previous activities in the energy sector. Using the existing product platforms, we are rescaling our products and adapting them to the needs of renewable and distributed energy sources.
The requirements of owners of PV farms or wind farms (or hybrid installations involving both types of generation) are largely specific, forcing the development of modern tools and applications. We are launching new brands of digital surveillance systems (EKTIN) and controllers that implement the requirements of the NC RfG and network codes -—SPV RM or SPV SM. The equipment is used in industry and helps to manage power at points of connection to external networks. Lithium-ion energy storages, complemented by multi-level EMS (Energy Management Systems) and communication controllers, can be supplied as complete solutions or as add-on components to existing installations. Apator is ready to offer solutions for a wide group of customers, ranging from small RES-based installations to investors who require complex systems managing large amounts of data and performing important and responsible activities related to the reconfiguration of the electric power grid. The customer can use its own servers or servers provided by Apator, which reduces capital expenditure in favour of staggered operational expenditure.
What about the further development of RES? What direction are we heading in?
I would like us to move towards sustainable development based on the cooperation of many actors from different industries and backgrounds, and to do so in a clearly planned way. Renewable Energy Sources should be part of a larger plan working towards democratising energy and shifting responsibility for energy efficiency to local communities. Of course, such a change is accompanied by tensions related to the violation of the status quo, but these must not prevent the pursuit of climate neutrality goals, decarbonisation of our economy by changing the energy mix in favour of RES. The process of change has already been initiated, but its pace is to be dictated by a number of factors.
Apator is going to participate in this process by sharing its expertise and providing technical solutions for energy transition and supporting entrepreneurs and local governments in their quest for energy independence.
Let’s not forget electromobility, which, in addition to electric cars, requires the provision of adequate charging infrastructure. Chargers will become an essential part of the electric power system in the future, and, in cooperation with energy storages — the stationary ones or the ones inside an electric car (because what else can a car battery be) — will become an important part of the transformation of the sector. What’s equally important, owing to electromobility our cities shall become more sustainable and healthier.
Krzysztof Kmiecik, RES Business Development Manager, Apator Group
Responsible for the development of new products and solutions related to the energy transformation, in particular of energy storages, e-mobility sector solutions, and RES surveillance systems. He has more than 25 years of professional experience gained in areas related to sales management, marketing, and commercial project implementation, as well as the introduction of new solutions in Poland and on foreign markets.
Last Updated on December 15, 2022 by Anastazja