PETERHEAD: The two large white boxes hardly look like the height of ground-breaking innovation. But they represent a first for the renewable energy industry in how to deliver clean energy steadily and profitably.
They are also the result of a remarkable partnership that marries expertise from Masdar, in the desert of the UAE, to that of energy giants Equinor from snowy Norway.
Together the two white boxes sitting on a windswept site in north-east Scotland make up Batwind, the world’s first energy storage system directly connected to an off-shore wind farm. On Wednesday, a new chapter in energy history was opened with the inauguration of Batwind.
The battery is linked to Hywind, five turbines floating about 30 kilometers out in the North Sea off Peterhead, a small fishing port an hour north of Aberdeen, the UK’s North Sea oil hub. And in the words of Bader Al-Lamki, Masdar’s executive director of clean energy, it is “a game-changer.”
Using highly sophisticated algorithms incorporating the study of weather forecast and energy usage, Batwind is able to stabilize the release of energy, regulating it so that it is available when demand is high and stored efficiently when it is not needed so much.
Artificial intelligence systems study patterns of usage and market prices to calculate when to sell energy to the national grid at the most profitable rates for the wind farm operators.
Energy prices fluctuate according to demand, from hour to hour down to fractions of a second. When demand is high — in the mornings, for example the price goes up.
But producing renewable energy from the wind is unpredictable. High production does not necessarily coincide with periods of high demand and without efficient storage, the energy is wasted.
Batwind’s job is to marry regular, stable supply with profitability.
“At the end of the day, we are about selling energy,” said Al-Lamki. “We know how to produce renewable energy. The role has been how to prevent wastage. This storage system can be equally applied to solar power or other forms of renewables and it can be applied anywhere in the world. Batwind is the key to regularizing energy release and making it as competitive as conventional energy made from oil or gas.”
Specially developed software will be able to decide when to dispatch supply and when to rein in production.
“Over time we should develop algorithms to give projections not just for days but for months,” said Sebastian Bringsvaerd, head of Hywind development at Equinor.
Batwind’s battery system has a storage capacity of 1.2 megawatts, equivalent to the battery capacity of more than 1.3 million iPhones.
The cost of renewable energy is going down all the time.
According to a report released last October by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the cost of installing battery storage systems could fall by 66 percent by 2030.
Masdar partnered with Equinor to instal two wind farms off the coast of Britain. The first was Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm in the North Sea off the coast of eastern England. The UAE company has a 25 percent stake in the Hywind turbines, the world’s first floating wind farm.
Battery storage could also provide power to remote areas which are not linked to a national grid. The Batwind team have already had inquiries from the Hebridean islands off the west coast of Scotland.
“The case for renewable energy has been made,” said Al-Lamki. “Now we have the key to storage. These are exciting times in the energy business and Masdar is in the forefront.”
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