Pairing hydropower with battery storage—an innovative hybrid solution
Batteries are cost-effective at delivering small amounts of stored energy over a short time at high power levels. They also offer a flexible and modular solution and have few limitations on installation location. The fast response time and high versatility makes the combination of existing smaller hydro with batteries worth exploring. Energy storage systems are also easy to construct and have low environmental impacts.
Battery energy storage is a rapidly growing technology and is becoming known as the most versatile technology on the grid. With the falling cost of batteries, we can expect to see more hybridization of storage with any type of generation. By combining generation with storage, we can take advantage of the beneficial performance characteristics of batteries. Including fast response, high efficiency, low maintenance costs, and zero emissions, while using the generation asset to address the storage’s limited energy duration. Smart dispatch software technology can also help with the optimal use of the hydro-battery combination to meet the various changing conditions, deciding on the best timing, and amount to store, versus release energy at single or multiple locations.
The batteries can capture excess energy produced by the hydro turbines, which would have been otherwise spilled due to low demand or excess waterflow. Energy associated with spilled water used to recharge the battery can also be used during periods of high demand to serve the community or generate additional revenue during high price periods if there is a grid connection. In addition, storage offers the ability to provide operating reserve and other ancillary services, such as frequency and voltage support. This results in the overall facility having a more versatile offering to the grid operator, whether the grid is isolated or connected to the national grid. A main benefit of battery energy storage systems is the ability of a single installation to provide multiple services, value stacking, both at different times and simultaneously if market conditions allow. This value stacking approach significantly improves the project economics, as it allows for multiple benefits and revenue streams.
The integration of battery storage and hydro makes sense both economically and environmentally. Batteries have a relatively small physical footprint, and they can likely be housed within the hydro facility, saving space and helping preserve the surrounding landscape. Storage also saves the generator from start-stop operation, allowing it to run in more favorable conditions, and ultimately prolonging its life. The cost-benefit analysis of pairing hydro with battery technology must consider the many different elements indicated in this outline, however, as renewable energy generation continues to rise around the world more storage facilities will be required to harness the full potential of the renewable sources. With that in mind, more innovative hybrid projects will be developed, marking another positive step in creating global safe, clean energy generation.
Francesca Ottoni, PE, MBA
Regional Manager, Waterpower , Hydropower
Francesca Ottoni is a senior leader with twenty-five years of engineering and construction experience in the Energy sector. She is currently the Ontario Regional Manager for Waterpower at Hatch, leading a team of world-class hydroelectric professionals out of Hatch’s Niagara Falls office, the birthplace of the company’s nearly 100-year history in waterpower. Francesca believes that innovation is essential to solving the world’s toughest problems, including climate change. Prior to joining Hatch, Francesca was a leader in the nuclear power industry for many years. She started her career in California and has accumulated a wealth of experience in new product and technology development, business growth, and project management.