Intersolar India deals with the latest international solar industry topics. Interviewed experts shed light on the background behind market developments worldwide and explain the most recent industry and scientific development. We had the chance to talk to Dr. Rahul Walawalkar, Executive Director at India's Energy Storage Alliance, about the challanges associated with energy storage in India. Find out in which way the MNRE suppots the deployment of energy storage applications.
Interview with Dr. Rahul Walawalkar
Executive Director at India Energy Storage Alliance, Member, Executive Council at Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE),
Member - Board of Directors & Co-Chairman, Communications Working Group at Electricity Storage Association
Can you share some of your work in the energy storage area?
I lead Emerging Technologies & markets practice of Customized Energy Solutions, one of the fastest growing energy consulting and services companies. We have been working on energy storage projects since 2004 and our work has encompassed entire range of energy storage technologies including Pumped Hydro, CAES, Li-Ion batteries, Sodium Sulphur batteries, Flow batteries, Thermal storage, flywheels and other emerging storage technologies. We were 1st to develop ways to optimize energy storage operations in electricity markets through multiple value streams in US. We also currently involved in operating range of energy storage facilities in various electricity markets as part of 3000 MW portfolio managed by our Market Operations Centre in US on behalf of various market participants.
I also serve on the Board of Directors of Electricity Storage Association as Secretory and am founder and Executive Director of the India Energy Storage Alliance. I have served as expert evaluator for US DOE and various project developers on evaluating energy storage projects in US.
What are the technical challenges associated with battery storage?
The key challenge is to understand the impact of the various applications on the cycle life of batteries. Cycle life is very critical in overall economic viability of various storage technologies and due to the nature of the electro chemistry, the cycle life depends a lot on operational parameters such as Depth of Discharge, operating temperature, charge – discharge rate etc. All these parameters can change based on the application and thus impact the actual life of the installation.
Disposal and recycling of chemical based batteries is a major environmental nightmare. What should the government do in addressing this challenge?
There are existing best practices that are used by industries such as Lead Acid batteries where recycling rate is greater than 98%. The recycling rate may be different based on type of batteries and the end of life value of the components. The key is in having clear labelling as well as encourage vendors and supply chain to be responsible for the end of the life recycling. Manufacturers are also working on finding ways in which environmentally benign components are used as electrolytes in upcoming batteries.
What and how does MNRE support the deployment of energy storage applications in India today? Is there any support programme in the planning stage or will be soon implemented? Are there any complementary state policies in place, if so where and what do they aim at?
MNRE is supporting energy storage research by facilitating solar PV and storage integration at the Solar Energy Center. MNRE has also offered to evaluate exemption from import duties for energy storage technologies that are used for solar or wind integration projects. Apart from this, the push provided by MNRE for solar and wind deployment is one of the major drivers for energy storage integration in India.
From your perspective what kind of incentives are needed that energy storage in India will eventually take off?
The biggest issue in India is transparent and realistic pricing of electricity. We work a lot on keeping the average price low and rely on load shedding for avoiding peaker. Instead of load shedding, if we start relying on TOU pricing, demand response programs then there will be more incentives for customers to adopt energy storage. Similarly for utilities, there needs to be obligation to serve load and penalties for not meeting power quality and reliability standards, which will also create incentives for utilities to deploy storage at distribution level.
There are existing incentives such as PAT which can provide incentives for generators to implement storage for improving heat rate. Also the issues related to available transmission paths is resulting in transmission operators to pay attention to energy storage.
Can you share a specific PV – energy storage project in India with us?
There are numerous projects that currently are integrating energy storage with PV. One prominent example is the recipient of last year’s Intersolar India AWARD – Sun Carrier Omega has intgegrated Gildemeister flow battery with PV and wind for their net zero project in India. Similarly numerous social enterprises such as Gram power and Bottom of Pyramid Energy and Environmental Innovations are working on integrating solar PV with storage for providing lighting and access electricity for rural India.
Except cost, what are the main barriers in India today, preventing a penetration of energy storage in the market?
As mentioned earlier the cycle life is a critical factor that determines the economic viability of project. In addition the Depth of Discharge constraints can determine the sizing and thus affect total installed cost. Round trip efficiency will also be a critical issue as the energy arbitrage differences for retail customers are lower in India.
What’s the situation of Indian energy storage manufacturer today?
The Indian energy storage market is right now dominated by Lead Acid technology. Various international manufacturers are working on developing partnerships in India for bringing their technologies to India. IESA is working on educating Indian manufacturers on such opportunities and also provide networking opportunities with international companies through the Knowledge Partner network as well as various technology tours.
How big was the Indian market for energy storage applications last year?
Currently the main energy storage application is the back up / UPS market, which perhaps was at least few GW in size. It is difficult to estimate exact size as the nos for total sales also include automobile sales.
In next 7 years, IESA estimates that the potential market size for grid / off grid applications will be ~20 GW as shown below: