While home batteries have become almost commonplace, and therefore largely standardised, there is still plenty of room for innovation in the market segment for battery systems with a larger storage capacity. Flemish companies know this and are coming up with new products and services in rapid succession.

The electricity network is seeing a thorough change through the proportion of intermittent sources such as wind and solar energy, which is only rising. Decentralised production, such as solar panels on the roofs of homes, offices and factory buildings and large solar and wind farms, as well as consumers who produce at the same time (‘prosumers’), demand a whole new way of keeping supply and demand in balance and ensuring security of supply. Flexibility is the key concept here. Energy storage can be an important source of that flexibility. This can shift energy consumption through time and provide extra stability for the network (the ‘grid’).

Home batteries: more and more common
Innovations in terms of battery technology have already made sweeping changes to our economy and society in recent decades. In the 90s, improvements to rechargeable batteries saw the market in portable electronics flourish. After the turn of the millennium, innovative technologies led to the (re)birth of electric vehicles. The latter application in particular matured battery technology further and provided for a sharp reduction in costs. Today, practically all installed systems for stationary energy storage are based on batteries. The lion’s share of these are taken up by the most popular type: the lithium ion battery. This is highly versatile, meaning it can be used for many applications while being eminently scalable.

Residential, otherwise known as home batteries, are becoming more and more common in Flanders. Tens of thousands of them have now been installed, which makes it unsurprising that every Flemish installer of solar panels also offers home batteries these days. It is anticipated that between 15 and 25 percent of new PV installations will be equipped with one this year.

However, most home batteries are manufactured outside Europe, predominantly in Asia. But our industry can still make a difference by making the batteries ‘smart’, so that prosumers can get the most from their energy storage systems, while keeping their electricity bills low and – at the same time – helping to stabilise the grid.

Companies such as LifePower and iinno-benelux offer applications and platforms for optimising the operation of a home battery, such as in line with the behaviour of the residents or users, weather forecasts, varying energy prices, the capacity tariff and other signs from the energy market – as well as the grid’s stability requirement, of course. That makes the home battery the core of future energy provision, not just locally within a home or building but also at a wider scale – and even when the sun isn’t shining. In addition, it always guarantees a maximum yield from the investment for the home battery’s owner or user. Flanders is well on its way down this route and it will be able to welcome countless new players, products and services in this flourishing market of optimisations for home batteries.

Large battery systems: the market is still wide open
Home batteries are therefore becoming commonplace at a rapid pacewhich sadly also means that there are few remaining opportunities for competition with the large Asian manufacturers in terms of production. But the larger batteries that are being installed at industrial sites or as a ‘district battery’ for an entire residential neighbourhood are a very different story. No standard solutions exist for this, or those that do cannot be scaled as desired. It is in this market segment that Flemish companies such as Battery Supplies, D-Centralized, Posetron and C-energy are designing and manufacturing full battery systems, from the level of individual battery cells or modules to custom-developed solutions. These kinds of systems generally come with a smart platform for managing the energy housekeeping ‘behind the meter’ and for enabling trade and services in energy (e.g. offering stability for the grid).

At an even larger scale, some battery systems are already flirting with storage capacities of some tens of thousands of megawatts and hundreds of megawatt hours. Those systems are seeing some excellent market opportunities in this country. Last September, for example, a special auction was organised (the Capacity Remuneration Mechanism). This selected a system with a capacity of no less than 25 megawatts and 100 megawatt hours to provide flexibility to an energy mix with a higher proportion of renewables.

Yuso is an example of a company that, among other things, offers batteries that continually maximise income streams through the use of forecast models, artificial intelligence and big data. In doing to, Yuso is focusing on local energy services such as maximising the use of renewable sources, linked to the developments in the energy markets and to balancing services for the grid. Another example of creating (even further) value is provided by Centrica Business Solutions, a company that is pioneering the integration of the battery fleet for the Terhills business park in Limburg (accounting for a capacity of 18 megawatts) in primary and secondary control and reserve markets. This combines flexible industrial processes with storage in a virtual electricity power station to support the grid. Finally, large collections of smaller batteries (such as home batteries) can also create added value in a several markets. One example of this is the Flexcity platform, which manages the backup batteries for telecoms provider Orange. The platform does this not only to guarantee security of supply at Orange’s site, but also to utilise the storage capacity by offering this through demand response services.

Up to now, this has only been about batteries and battery systems constructed from new battery cells. But for several years now, there has been ever greater consideration for the reuse of end-of-life batteries, as they are known (originating from electric vehicles, for example), in energy storage applications. Companies such as Watt4Ever, Bebat and Octave are studying a sustainable approach to the entire value chain, from collecting end-of-life batteries through transport, dismantling, inspection, conversion, certification and market introduction to, ultimately, ‘second-life batteries’.

Jeroen Büscher, Product Manager Electrical StorageVITO/EnergyVille