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Munich/Zurich, 24 November 2020 

Turnkey storage containers made from vehicle batteries provide large cost savings for industry and grid operators

  • In Elverlingsen, Germany’s first stationary storage system made from electric car batteries is starting operation.
  • The Advanced Battery Storage stationary storage concept was developed by The Mobility House in collaboration with Groupe Renault, FENECON, and other partners.
  • The project was presented in detail at the digital round table “Elektroautos für die Energiewende” [Electric cars for the “Energiewende”] on November 23.

At least 20 MWh of stationary storage capacity all over Germany—this is the first step of what The Mobility House, Renault, and FENECON are planning to achieve as part of the Advanced Battery Storage project. The first storage with 3 MWh is now starting operation in a former coal-fired power plant in Elverlingsen, North Rhine-Westphalia. Like the customer solution, this storage system is made up of two 40-foot standard containers—a battery container and a transformer container—with the turnkey system installed inside. With the stationary storage, the partners are supporting the move in the world of energy towards a decentralized system predominantly using renewable energy, which is prone to major fluctuations as it relies on the wind and sun to generate power. Stationary storage systems balance out these fluctuations, which increases the flexibility of the power grid.

First- and second-use batteries from Renault’s ZOE compact car can be installed in the stationary storage system. The innovative use of second-use batteries as a stationary storage system expands the scope of application and increases the service life of former electric car batteries—and thus also improves their CO2 footprint. Furthermore, the proceeds from this subsequent use reduce the costs for the electric car.

“The battery is the electric car’s most valuable asset”

The battery is the electric car’s most valuable asset,” said Robert Hienz, COO of The Mobility House, speaking at the round table discussion. “For us, a stationary storage system like the one used in the Advanced Battery Storage project is, put simply, like a large parking lot with a large number of electric cars constantly plugged into the power grid. From a purely technological perspective, there is no difference for us between the batteries installed in electric cars and those used in the stationary storage.”

72 individual battery modules from electric cars are installed in one container, as exchangeable units,” said Franz-Josef Feilmeier, Managing Director of FENECON GmbH, explaining how the stationary storage is structured. “When it comes to usage, it makes no difference whether the battery is new or used. It is even possible to combine various designs, voltages, and capacities. New batteries, which are installed in the storage as a ‘living spare part’ and thus need to be kept fresh, can be treated more gently than second-use batteries, which will go on to be recycled after being used as stationary storage.

Since 2016, The Mobility House has already been operating more than 2500 lithium-ion vehicle batteries in various systems. The technology has proved to be extremely reliable in daily use over the past years. The systems are automatically controlled by The Mobility House during operation and marketed to the energy markets.

Space for two containers and a suitable load profile

Interested companies looking to solve their “energy problems” on their own premises and be perceived, both internally and from the outside, as pioneers and innovators in the ‘Energiewende’ simply need space for two 40-foot containers and access to a mains connection capacity of 3MW. Customers from industry, coach or fast charging station operators, public utilities, grid operators, and power supply companies aiming to save costs during peak loads can make optimum use of the system’s wide range of benefits:

  • The stationary storage system levels out high load peaks directly on site. As this means that less power needs to be taken from the power grid, the system significantly reduces the grid utilization fees. The stationary storage achieves the best results for industrial and commercial companies with a high power consumption of more than 10 GWh a year and/or with load peaks above 500 kW.
  • Thanks to the flexibility of the stationary storage systems, grid operators can be supported when grid bottlenecks occur at major nodes.
  • In the event of power failure, the stationary storage can step in as a quick, safe, and reliable emergency solution.
  • The battery system’s inverters can level out the reactive power at the site.

Positive cost balance in practice—with secure financing

An example application is an industrial site with high energy consumption. Avoiding load peaks (peak shaving) makes it possible to save a good 200,000 euros per year on energy costs. The costs for the stationary storage units themselves do not affect the balance sheet, however: the financing has already been secured by The Mobility House, Renault, FENECON and two other project partners: the Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co and the French venture capitalist Demeter.

V2G as a long-term goal—a giant swarm storage device for the “Energiewende”

One of the project’s overarching goals is to make optimum use of electric car batteries across their entire service life, which can extend beyond 20 years. In this way, they can play a major role in sector coupling, which involves combining the energy and mobility sectors. A long-term goal—one that The Mobility House is already working on—is using mobile electric cars as active giant swarm storage devices in the energy market (V2G).

The electric car is the only type of car that can help to reduce CO2 emissions even when it is stationary:  by increasing the use of renewable energy thanks to V2G applications,” said Uwe Hochgeschurtz, CEO Renault Germany / Austria / Switzerland at Groupe Renault, referring to the potential of the innovative technology. “I believe that there will be no alternative to electric mobility in the next 10 to 20 years. The route that this will take has already been mapped out and there is still a lot of untapped potential.

There are many advantages to using batteries as energy storage devices: they respond very quickly and can be used flexibly at a wide range of locations wherever grid problems are most frequent,” said Dirk Uwe Sauer, Professor of Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage Systems at RWTH Aachen University, explaining the advantages of stationary storage systems. The capacities made possible by the use of V2G are also enormous, as Sauer explained to the participants: “Imagine ten million electric cars, each with 11 kW connected to a bidirectional charging station. This would result in 110 gigawatts of power—significantly exceeding our current load peaks of around 80 gigawatts.”

Dipl. Ing. Frank Schäfer, Head of Grids / Storage at the NRW Energy Agency, is convinced that stationary storage will be the beginning of an entirely new economic sector: “Flexible container solutions such as those used Elverlingsen will help to create more jobs in the future and will be indispensable for implementing the “Energiewende” and for abandoning old coal-fired power plants in favor of renewable energy.

Urban Windelen, Managing Director of the Federal Association of the Energy Storage Systems, pointed out the urgent need to set up storage capacity for renewable energy: “If we want to use electricity at night that was generated by the sun, we need storage,” was Windelen’s simple yet insightful explanation. On the other hand, regulatory barriers stand in the way of using stationary storage to strengthen the power grids, he said. It is now important to speed up progress in the “three D’s of the ‘Energiewende’—deregulation, decarbonization, and decentralization.” The conditions for this have already been put in place: “In terms of technology, Germany is world class. We have many new, clever, and innovative applications—and the Advanced Battery Storage project is one of them.