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Overview of large-scale and commercial storage systems: Diverse business models, falling prices spur market growth

In the German edition of pv magazine, the market for large-scale and commercial storage systems was focused on. The key takeaways were a detailed overview of storage-system providers and their products, as well as a better understanding of the dynamics underlying the market.

In all, 54 suppliers provided details on 198 products, services and projects this year; 17 of the respondents also listed price information for some 50 systems. Of the companies listed, 57 sell their storage systems worldwide, and 70 offer their products throughout Europe.

In Germany, as in many other countries, storage systems are financed primarily through various business models and highly specific applications. Companies purchase such systems to save electricity costs and grid fees, which is why areas of application and business models that could be implemented with the systems were among the topics queried in the market overview.

Increasing self-consumption

The desire to increase self-consumption among operators of solar PV systems continues to be a key motivation for the use of storage systems. Some 173 products are either suitable, or specifically designed, for this purpose, according to manufacturers and system integrators.

Self-consumption is a popular application among companies that have loads outside of the sunny hours, such as in agriculture. Around 160 of the products in the overview can also be used to smooth load peaks that occur in commercial operations or absorb generation peaks, and thus facilitate the integration of renewables into power networks.

Many systems are further capable of supplying electricity during power outages or for off-grid applications. Some of the listings cite islands and farms in remote regions as examples of how storage systems can be used to reduce the reliance on diesel generators or replace them altogether.

One business model that was frequently mentioned is peak load capping for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. There were 50 manufacturers that explicitly mentioned this application. Storage systems for this purpose charge slowly to prevent overloading the local grid connection or they store solar power.

Once a vehicle is connected, they discharge at high power into the vehicle, which can then continue on its way quickly following the fast charge. The market players surveyed stated that car dealerships were currently the largest customer group for these storage systems, as they offer fast-charging stations on behalf of vehicle manufacturers.

Storage prices fall slightly

The prices of listed storage systems larger than 100 kWh with lithium-ion batteries fell by around 4% compared with the previous year. Compared across all storage technologies, prices have actually come down 16%. This is due in part to several redox flow systems that are new to the overview and which the manufacturers claim are very affordable.

The least expensive lithium-ion battery storage systems in the overview now cost €215 per kWhof capacity for sizes over 10 MWh. But even for smaller systems below the 100-kWh mark, this lower limit rises to just €275.

The range is huge, however. For systems based solely on lithium-ion technology, average storage prices range from €443 to €792, from large to small. Prices for systems with second-life batteries are slightly higher than the average. The most expensive unit listed is a complete system that includes lithium batteries, outdoor housing, an inverter, and connections.

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The seven redox flow systems are in the lower quarter of the price overview. The lower limit applies to a redox flow system with zinc-bromine solution and a single-tank, electrode-stack design that eliminates the need for an ion-exchange membrane, according to its manufacturer. But, since prices depend not only on capacity but also on performance, this presentation favors redox flow systems, which are generally designed for applications that require lower C-rates.

A third technology offered by two manufacturers in the overview is the saltwater battery. So far, these are only listed in small sizes up to 500 kWh. Their prices fall in the middle range across all technologies.

Strong growth in a still small market

Guest author Jan Figgener, a department head under the Chair of Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage Systems Technology at RWTH Aachen University, has analyzed the growth of Germany’s commercial storage market. He drew on data from the master market data register.

According to the register, commercial storage systems accounted for only a few percent of the total storage systems registered with the Federal Network Agency at the end of 2020 – some 1,500 registrations and a cumulative capacity of more than 100 MWh. In total, the Federal Network Agency listed more than 180,000 concurrently registered battery storage systems (with a total capacity of 2,000 MWh and 1,400 MW).

However, the commercial storage market’s relative growth has proceeded apace. Whereas 380 commercial storage systems were registered in 2019, the figure rose to 630 commercial storage systems in 2020. Added capacity increased 60% year-over-year in 2020 to 42 MWh and an output of 21 MW.

Figgener only considered storage systems up to 1,000 kWh in size, however, and disregarded large-scale storage systems used for primary balancing power applications. The market overview, on the other hand, also includes projects with significantly higher capacities. One driver for big utility-scale storage systems in recent years has been demand from the grid services segment, such as for primary balancing power.

According to the manufacturers, 60 products in the overview were suitable for this purpose and another 60 could be optionally adapted to it. In addition, some storage systems are advertised as suitable for secondary balancing power and intraday electricity trading.

In addition to power storage systems and projects, storage-system inverters and some component manufacturers are also listed. Among these listings is a company offering a battery inverter that it says will eliminate the need for matching and active balancing of battery cells in second-life storage systems; another offers simulation programs that can help identify the most lucrative business model for commercial storage systems.

Further details can be found in the online database. Among the information it contains are manufacturers’ comments on their products, detailed questions on charging and discharging performance, functionalities (increasing self-consumption, peak load capping, peak generation capping, emergency power supply, stand-alone operation, UPS, fast electric vehicle charging, primary balancing power, black start capability, reactive power regulation), unique selling propositions from the manufacturer’s point of view, and system scope.

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Source: pv magazine