Storing electrical energy is one of the most important processes to take advantage of this resource and has become an innovative option for the energy sector at a national and global level. Therefore, the creation of new forms, technologies and systems for storing electrical energy through which every megawatt can be harnessed, saving electricity and making energy use much more efficient has advanced steadily in recent years.
The storage of electrical energy is also undoubtedly a key process for the energy transition, as it helps to even out the variability of energy production from renewable sources. In addition, electrical energy storage systems balance electricity supply and demand and improve power quality by regulating frequency and voltage.
Based on the above, the promotion and development of new technologies for storing electricity is gradually becoming a necessity for the country. In this context, market conditions have become more favorable: the costs of implementing energy storage systems have decreased by more than 80% in the last decade alone, and customers and investors have shown increasing confidence in new energy storage projects.
In addition, another of the great advantages of energy storage systems is that they are a very effective solution to avoid blackouts that often leave millions of users without power and that are caused by high electricity demand and weather events, or that have even been programmed to occur during peak hours of electricity consumption.
Thus, storing electricity allows industries not to be paralyzed and that there are no interruptions in operations that can generate economic losses. In this sense, the installation of intelligent storage systems allows users to use the energy they store throughout the day when they need it most.
Undoubtedly, expectations for growth in energy storage have risen globally, as even the two largest economies in the world, the United States and China, have increased their electric energy storage capacity in recent years. However, the progress in its implementation varies from one country to another, according to public policies, regulation and the profitability of the projects in each one.
In this sense, it should be noted that there is still no accelerated deployment of electric energy storage systems in Mexico, which is mainly attributed to the lack of regulation and the political uncertainty that currently exists in this area, which has caused instability in the sector and even generates fear among investors.
Because of this, despite the great benefits that energy storage has proven to have, its deployment has been slow in the national territory, since it is essential that there is an adequate legal definition so that electric energy storage can overcome some of its main challenges, such as the implementation of electric energy storage devices on a large scale, but maintaining a good cost, which makes it more competitive.
There are different electrical energy storage systems and devices whose implementation helps companies and large industries to carry out an intelligent management of the energy they use for their activities. Electrical energy storage systems bring great value in the energy supply chain and, depending on their capacity, they can store energy on a large scale or at the end-user level.
Currently, a variety of electronic electrical energy storage devices are available to efficiently transform and store energy. Globally, the most common form of large-scale bulk electrical energy storage, and also the most economical so far, is pumped hydro. This electrical energy storage system generates large amounts of clean energy with fast response times and has the largest installed capacity worldwide.
In a pumped-storage hydroelectric power plant, electricity is generated by pumping water during off-peak hours for use during peak hours. Its technology is used by large hydroelectric power plants, since it allows energy to be stored for several hours.
Another way of storing electrical energy is by means of the compressed air technique, which works mechanically through a reversible motor that stores the ambient air in cubicles underground at high pressures. This kind of subway "cavern" is specially constructed for the storage of electrical energy and, when it reaches its maximum capacity or demand increases, the compressed air is extracted and used to produce electrical energy.
On the other hand, there is also a thermal process that stores electrical energy by using materials that retain the energy and then release it in a controlled manner. This method uses exposure to extreme temperatures, either very high or through refrigeration. This energy storage technique harnesses heat by raising or lowering the temperature of a substance.
Another mechanical way in which electrical energy can be stored is by means of flywheels, which consist of a metal disk that rotates and brakes to conserve electrical energy in kinetic form. The metal disc starts to rotate when a torque is applied to it and, while it is spinning, it is braked with a resistant torque, thus conserving energy in mechanical-kinetic form.
Also, a device that serves to store electrical energy in large quantities, with electrostatic charges and without chemical reactions, is the supercapacitor. These electronic devices that store electrical energy can be charged and discharged in seconds and are ideal for covering supply interruptions or peak power requirements, as they are able to release the stored energy very quickly and at the required time.
There are also ways of storing electrical energy using hydrogen fuel cells, which is a continuous chemical storage that is permanently supplied from the outside. This method is the most common method of fuel cells used for this purpose. Hydrogen is often referred to as a "fuel of the future", producing electricity from renewable energy sources, and it is possible to store it in special containers for very long periods.
The storage of electrical energy in batteries is one of the most innovative systems among the different energy storage devices. This platform offers permanent stability and allows energy to be stored in chemical compounds that generate electrical charges. Among its main advantages are the speed of its response capacity, as well as its ease of installation and scalability. These batteries can be lithium-ion, lead-acid or nickel-cadmium.
How to store electrical energy in a battery? The use of lithium batteries for electrical energy storage contributes to making electrical energy consumption more efficient, facilitates the adoption of renewable energy and has a lower impact on the environment.
Lithium-ion batteries operate with a high number of regeneration cycles, with high performance and are adapted to the energy needs of the consumer electronics industry. With the development of this technology it is possible to store the energy generated, since lithium has a high electrochemical potential, which allows it to accumulate large amounts of energy with great efficiency.
As already mentioned, the reduction in the cost of implementing this technology has been very relevant in recent years. According to BloombergNEF (BNEF), between 2010 and 2018 the cost of lithium-ion batteries fell 85% and projections indicate that it will continue to fall further and further in the coming years, reaching half its price in 2030.
By 2040, according to BNEF's expectations, the demand for batteries will reach 4,584 GWh in the stationary storage and electric transportation sectors, which will represent an unprecedented boost for battery manufacturers, for the lithium, cobalt and nickel mining industry, as well as continuing to pave the way for the energy transition.
One of the keys to boosting storage solutions beyond the complexity of the Mexican electricity market is to reach end consumers. In this way, electrical energy storage projects in the country such as Quartux are making their way into the sector with a high potential for impact. By operating in an efficient and appropriate manner, and with the commitment to carry out the necessary efforts to create a reliable system, Quartux has managed to reduce energy consumption costs for users.
Quartux is a Mexican company that designs, installs and operates intelligent lithium-ion battery systems. Its project uses software with artificial intelligence to store electrical energy and produce great economic benefits for the companies that use the platform, in addition to being a highly scalable model. To provide greater benefits to the user, its special control software allows for instant power backup and frequency regulation.
It is necessary to highlight the context in which this project is being developed. In Mexico there are more than 100,000 industrial, agricultural and commercial electricity users, which consume 50% of the country's electricity. These large users are usually charged for their energy consumption under a scheme of hourly rates, which become more expensive during the CFE's peak hours, since this is the time of day when the greatest amount of energy is consumed and, at the same time, when the cost of energy is highest.
Therefore, the installation of an intelligent system that stores electrical energy with lithium-ion batteries makes it possible to control the CFE's consumption during peak hours and supply the charged energy during off-peak hours. In this way, the end user obtains significant savings and the CFE reduces the peak load when the transmission lines are more saturated, thus, as mentioned above, avoiding blackouts and making it possible to continue with the operations of companies and industries.
How do batteries work to store electric energy? Lithium-ion batteries are placed behind meters to control the consumption profile of users and use the stored energy throughout the day during possible blackouts or at times of high tariffs or peak hours of the CFE. This means that the cheap energy generated during times of high solar irradiation will be efficiently stored for redistribution during peak demand hours.
Quartux's battery storage systems technology provides security and reliability to the customer. In addition, it is an energy storage solution that does not require permits from the National Energy Control Center (Cenace) for its installation and operation, since, by installing the systems behind the meter, they only modify consumption, but do not generate electricity.
Finally, after the installation of the Quartux energy storage system, users have the possibility to take control of their consumption and monitor it in real time.
Why is Quartux the future of electrical energy storage? The installation of the battery system in the meters is the milestone to see the growth of electric energy storage systems in Mexico.
As time progresses, costs are reduced and more regulatory and political challenges are overcome, electricity storage technology will gradually consolidate to create a reliable and competitive national grid that will lead Mexico to the efficient use of energy, with lower consumption costs and greater integration of renewable energies.