Forgive the pun, but the second Energy Storage Conference & Expo held in Düsseldorf, Germany on 18 and 19 March, certainly drew in top speakers and a lively audience. Curious about this emerging sector, we took our place among the 500-plus delegates.
By David Sear
(Scroll down for video interviews…..)
To borrow an expression favoured by politicians, the Energy Storage show is very definitely a broad church. In scope it covered practically every form of energy storage, from chemical to mechanical, from thermal to electrochemical, ranging from the needs of individual households with a few PV panels right up to large-scale storage for say wind farms. In short, plenty to engage a wide professional audience.
And whilst mentioning politicians, it is perhaps worth mentioning that the show is in fact billed as an event where research meets industry meets politics. After all, there is no point discussing possible technologies without considering the broader picture. In that context, it was perhaps not surprising that the auditorium was packed when German Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier stood up to deliver a keynote presentation. Nor was it a surprise that he faced a barrage of questions about current and future government policies….
But back to the nuts and bolts of energy storage. Many of the early speakers confirmed the intention that Germany plans to meet eighty per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources (with a strong role for and solar) by 2050. The implication is clear – smart energy storage which feeds in to the electrical grid will be a necessity.
A subsequent speaker – Dr Imre Gyuk, from the U.S. Department of Energy, had the audience enthralled as a traced the history of energy storage. Twelve years ago, he noted, energy storage was a complete unknown. Today it has caught the imagination of research teams, but is still considered a new phenomenon at the grid level. He gave a strong mandate for energy storage by noting that the wind mostly blows at night, yet peak energy demand is seen between noon and three in the afternoon…
Later Dr Gyuk gave some interesting reviews of energy storage projects either planned, under construction, or already in service. It was clear that energy storage can be used to fulfill several needs, such as ramp control, frequency regulation, wind smoothing and blackout prevention.
Finally, he noted that energy storage is also a hot topic for developing countries which may lack an extensive electrical grid.
The next presenter turned the spotlight back to the picture in Germany. He sees a scenario where, with the balanced use of three renewable energy streams (solar, wind and a combination of hydro+geothermal+biomass), base power plants using nuclear or fossil fuels might no longer be required.
However, he noted that a variety of energy storage solutions would probably be required, and therefore urged the construction of demo plants to prove the various technologies.
After a welcome coffee break, Prof. Olav Hohmeyer touched on the need to consider time scales – do we need to store energy for seconds, hours, days or even months? Interestingly, he also noted that in some cases can be more practical and cheaper to install over-capacity than to install energy storage. Homing in on long-term storage, he outlined three potential technologies: pump storage; hydrogen; and power-to-gas.
The quality of these early presentations continued throughout the two-day event, so there was plenty to interest the attendees (and sadly way too much to report here). Audience members were also able to sit in on parallel workshops, attend company presentations during the lunch-break, discuss applicable storage solutions with standholders in the adjacent expo or simply network with peers from around the globe.
In short, a highly-charged event, which will be repeated from 31 March to 2 April 2014. (Note that the show programme has been extended from two to three days!) But if you cannot wait that long, sister events are planned for India and the USA later in 2013. For details: www.energy-storage-online.com; www.esnaexpo.com
What the organisers had to say….
At the close of the Energy Storage event, we asked two key figures within the organising team how they thought the show had gone, and their expectations for the future.