Why Energy storage is important for micro-grids in India

(Hybrid micro-grid can strengthen electricity supply to Rural India)

When distribution and transmission lines in India are not able to supply electricity to remote rural villages, then there is a hope of innovation, Micro-grid. Micro -grid is small power generation grid near to the consumers. It is mostly developed by private/independent organizations.

In Jan 2012, over 300 million Indian citizens had no access to electricity. Over one third (33%) of India’s rural population lacked electricity, as did 6% of the urban population. Of those who did have access to electricity in India, the supply was intermittent and unreliable. Electricity supply to the rural village is also not economically advantageous for government, because of minimal power consumption and high cost of distribution and transmission for the electricity supply. Apart from that grid failure will add more trouble to the electricity. The North India blackout is one of the greatest examples of Indian electricity grid failure. To all these problems Micro-grid possibility in Indian scenario is a light of hope.

The small step towards self-sustainable electricity generation model for Micro grid implementation was already taken by few organisations. In this area small groups like Omni Power (OMC), Gram Power and TERI are remarkable. One good news is that Indian government offers an opportunity for commercial micro grid operations for the operators. Desi Power, Husk Power Systems, Saran Renewable Energies, Mera Gaon Micro Grid Power, and Naturetech Infra all operate micro grids on a commercial basis. Benefits are enormous.

  • The generation of power for these micro grids are mostly based on renewable energy source such as solar, wind, biomass. Some of the TERI implemented micro-grids is also depend upon mini-hydro Plants.
  • The power supply from these grids is 50% cheaper than the diesel price, which is the most dependable source for any small scale industry/telecom tower/small business owners.
  • This business model also brings growth to the area with employment, industrialization and advantage to health and education.

But the future of Micro-grid is not lucrative. Many problems in this business model create a question mark to the investor and entrepreneur to take further steps in this field; Such as

ü  Low Return on capital investment due to unpredictable revenue, as there is no reliable non-residential consumer. Currently telecom tower is the only commercial consumer. In later stages Public health centre, Educational Institutions and Government offices can be part of it.

ü  The basic open question: What happens with the electricity service when the sun stops shining or the wind doesn’t blow? No doubt this is a relevant issue which may prevent local energy decision makers from including micro-grid sources in their rural electrification plans.

ü  In these places, Demand for electricity is high in night time and generation is high in day time, so demand supply mismatch creates loss to the micro-grid operator.

ü  Overloading is another problem. Hooking up an additional light or a mobile charger robs the companies of revenue and also often trips the system and brings the whole village to darkness.

ü  Last but not the least the amount of electricity generation is very random, which varies from -50% to +50%. It may be one of the reasons not to go for PPA (Power purchase agreement) model for any industrial consumer.

The solution to the current scenario of micro-grid is integration of energy storage with the grid. This hybrid micro-grid will solve most of the issues of micro-grid like random generation of electricity. Energy storage can play two major roles in terms of energy management. Short-term: The battery regulates the system by absorbing or supplying power to maintain a balance between instantaneous power production and consumption. Long-term, Energy storage also helps the operator by storing electricity from off-peak period and delivering it at on-peak period. Thus it avoids wastage of energy at times when it is not required and supply energy when intermittent primary energy resources are unavailable. This also creates a faith among the SMES and other institutions of the locality for reliable and continuous source of electricity.

 

World-wide, many foreign countries have already integrated the storage to the micro-grid and benefitting from it. “The rising development of micro-grid is the single greatest factor that will drive the energy storage industry”, suggests Christopher Kuhl, the team leader for global sales at ZBB Energy Corp. For last 2 years the cost of energy storage is reducing drastically due to development in technology and higher commercialisation, which will boost the implementation of hybrid micro-grid.

Urban Electric Power has developed a Zn-MnO2 energy battery that can be used for grid applications where the use peak is flatter than commercial use spikes,” De Angelis says. “This battery is available for $70/kwh and the operating cost is cheaper than a car battery,” he says.

Nikhil Jaisinghani, coordinator of the Micro Grid Operator’s Network in India told in a report that, once the issues involved to micro-grid minimised, We can bring light in the life of 300 million ‘powerless’ Indians.

India energy storage alliance (IESA) hopes that many battery manufacturers will be interested to enter the Indian market to grab this opportunity and make this hybrid grid as feasible solution to the Indian electricity problem. The Energy storage could be the next step, for those who have already taken the first step towards the electricity revolution.

 

(The Author, Debi Prasad Dash is working as Analyst in an US based consulting firm, Customized Energy Solutions at Pune. He has good expertise in energy finance and quantitative modelling in energy sector. His blogs HighWay (http://debidash.wordpress.com) shares strategy based articles/observations of the Industry)

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