Many utilities are recognizing that battery energy storage is a critical part of the transition to cleaner forms of power generation. This is especially true in Europe, where many countries have adopted aggressive climate plans. In just the past few months, the European Union (EU) has announced a pledge to double its renewable energy usage by 2030. Some countries within the EU have plans to dramatically increase their clean energy; Austria, which traditionally has relied on hydropower for much of the country’s electricity, has a strategy to add even more renewable energy by 2030, with a goal to have 100% of its power generation from renewables by the end of the decade. The country, which still receives more than 20% of its electricity from fossil fuels, also is among those attempting to move away from the use of natural gas sourced from Russia, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Austria prior to the invasion received nearly 80% of its natural gas from Russia, and the Austrian government reported the country still was importing more than half its supply of natural gas from Russia as recently as May of this year.
Austria, like other countries deploying significantly more renewable energy, is working to scale up its use of battery energy storage systems (BESS), which are proving essential for the clean energy transition as the installations support integration of renewable energy. While energy storage can be a game-changer, the commissioning and operating of storage systems can be complicated, with many obstacles to deployment. With the inherent risk, and room for error, in a technology that is crucial to keeping electrical grids stable, it is paramount that utilities have the tools to ensure a successful application. A catch-all solution is battery analytics software, which is designed specifically to mitigate common challenges, from system failures to critical safety hazards. Battery analytics software supports BESS deployment and operation, as its use can reduce risk and optimize efficiency throughout the system’s lifetime.
1. VERBUND, an Austrian utility, has been increasing its use of battery energy storage. It is optimizing its use of the technology by utilizing battery analytics software to better understand the performance of its storage installations. Courtesy: TWAICE
One of Austria’s leading utilities has realized the benefits of battery energy storage, and has embraced software-based methods for scaling up its deployment of the technology. In early 2023, VERBUND, among the largest producers of hydropower in Europe, added 42 MW to its battery storage sites, with plans to install a total of 1 GW of battery storage capabilities by the end of 2030. To ensure smooth and efficient commissioning of its new and increasing energy storage systems, VERBUND has begun using battery analytics software, which allows for constant and easier surveillance of the health of a BESS installation (Figure 1). VERBUND’s software is from Munich, Germany–based TWAICE, among the companies involved with developing this technology. The utility has said that leveraging this application has resulted in significantly reduced friction when onboarding new storage, and enabled higher availability during operation.
VERBUND’s experience could be a model for other utilities seeking to increase their use of energy storage. VERBUND, prior to starting its use of battery analytics software, had commissioned its BESSs through an onsite service provider. The provider used measuring equipment to evaluate the performance of the BESS, a process that is expensive and time-consuming. With VERBUND significantly scaling up its BESS assets in the upcoming years, these issues and added costs would likely become more complex and prevalent, increasing the risk of failure to meet future deployment deadlines.
Storage system installation also involves cooperation with various manufacturers. Every BESS has a different user interface, and more significantly, different integrators have unique processes to calculate their metrics. This makes it very difficult for utilities to get comparable information about the different systems at the beginning of life. Battery analytics software provides an on-demand comprehensive report from just one online connection, with no additional measurement equipment needed, immediately at installation. The thorough report offers an accurate read on the BESS state of health and safety by analyzing large amounts of data. The VERBUND example shows how a digital commissioning report provides a full audit of a new BESS at the beginning of its deployment, allowing for a utility to make warranty or deficiency claims at the start and set the baseline standard for future asset management.
The battery analytics software uniquely calculates the digital commissioning report’s findings through a standardized process, so all diagnostics pulled from each system are presented in the same way, despite having various interfaces. With each system speaking the same language, VERBUND has found it can verify the information provided by each manufacturer and more easily compare metrics. This comparability will be significantly more important to evaluate system performance and aging, as VERBUND and other utilities increase the number of varying BESSs in the field.
A key benefit of battery analytics software is the ability to identify anomalies consistently throughout the system’s lifetime, allowing for issues to be addressed immediately, as they happen. The adoption of this technology has given VERBUND the ability to streamline the deployment process for new systems and improve the operation of existing systems.
Battery analytics involves clustering and analyzing huge amounts of data at once, enabling the system to pinpoint these anomalies and helping to identify issues like weak cells, temperature spikes, and cooling system deficiencies. Because the conventional commissioning process is done at the inverter level, anomalies within strings or cells were not identifiable to VERBUND before the battery analytics audit. The company now receives reports on its BESSs at their deployment, and the software continuously monitors the health and safety of batteries to optimize operational efficiency and revenue.
Battery analytics software can be a true catalyst for growth in energy storage, eliminating the need for costly onsite service providers and measurement equipment, while providing accurate state of health metrics and diagnostics. This software only becomes even more beneficial when scaling up energy storage assets, offering comparable metrics across many differing interfaces and manufacturers.
VERBUND officials after successfully onboarding the technology have reported they can now more easily ramp energy storage applications, helping the company to efficiently and successfully install its targeted 2 GWh of battery storage capacity and 1 GW of energy by 2030 as part of Austria’s clean energy strategy. With the European Commission reporting that the EU estimates its share of renewable energy use will reach nearly 70% by 2030, and 80% by 2050—up from 37% in 2021—system flexibility will be important. That means more battery energy storage will be necessary, and so will be tools to support BESS deployment.
—Lennart Hinrichs is vice president of Marketing, Partnerships, and Industry Strategy for TWAICE.