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Energy Storage Systems Can Help Calm Sea of Uncertainty

Bonnie Lind
By Bonnie Lind VP of Business Development, Pathion, Inc.

Energy markets across the world are changing rapidly with the increase of renewables and the change to a more distributed energy network. Energy storage is key. The capabilities of large-scale batteries have expanded, allowing users to capture more value and create a powerful tool to manage energy needs. At the same time, the price of energy storage dropped more than 50% from 2012 to 2017. And that trend is likely to continue. Energy storage systems are also being incentivized by many government programs to encourage utilization, further decreasing the cost of energy storage.

For manufacturers, energy storage systems can provide two major benefits: cost effective support to critical equipment onsite and mitigating utility risk.

Most advanced manufacturing facilities have equipment that is at risk of shutdown or damage due to poor quality incoming power or rapid voltage fluctuations. Other businesses have inventory at risk in the event of loss of climate control. Adverse impacts to businesses come in many forms: equipment repair or replacement cost, lost revenue, lost inventory and loss of customer confidence. Business interruption insurance coverage is often not effective in mitigating losses caused by external power supply issues.

By installing an energy storage system, manufacturers can ensure the best power, provide backup and monitor systems, potentially replacing various software or equipment on site. New battery systems can now replace a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) while also providing other services simultaneously. Control systems can ensure higher power quality and clean the electricity coming in from the grid, ensuring that sensitive equipment do not see voltage fluctuations. The storage system in the event of a grid outage also provides power for a safe shutdown procedure or power until backup gensets can be spun up. Storage systems can support and provide VAR (volt-ampere reactive) support for inductive or high demand loads, matching the needs of the business to ensure the business is run for optimal output instead of electricity costs. Previously, high-performance energy storage systems were cost prohibitive, but they are now cost effective.

Energy is one of the most significant costs in any manufacturing facility; energy storage solutions can help plan for and manage current and upcoming risk of electricity cost increases. In many places, the level of utility service has been decreasing due to aging infrastructure while the cost of electricity has been increasing rapidly.

Utilities must address grid modernization, building resilience to weather and cyber threats and deploying new technologies. For example, in California, with the changes in wildfire liability, the three major utilities may now shut down electric grids with little to no advance warning to mitigate fire risk, leaving customers scrambling to adjust. This uncertainty and new costs must be passed along to the consumer and are more typically coming in fixed charges, such as demand charges, instead of the cost per kWh. Energy storage systems can be used to provide cost reductions to utility costs as well as resilience. By having energy storage, a manufacturer can assess the energy profile needed to optimize business needs and still manage energy costs. Storage can be used to match changing time-of-use costs from a utility rate schedule, reduce ever increasing demand charges and mitigate other non-bypassable charges. Through energy storage, utility changes can be anticipated and mitigated while supporting the business.

When assessing the correct energy system, it is critical to find a total energy solution that can match and meet the needs of the business.

The battery system must be paired with a best-in-class control system and integrated architecture of the components. With best-in-class architecture and control systems, manufacturers can claim the full value stack, creating the most cost effective solution.

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