A Storage Solution for Renewables

Jordan’s solar and wind projects won’t live up to their full potential if they can’t find a way to store the energy they produce. The AES Corporation’s country manager says his company has a pioneering battery-based solution.

By Laith Abou-Ragheb

Expectations are running high for Jordan’s renewable energy program, which will soon see a slew of solar and wind projects operating the length and breadth of the Kingdom. But their game-changing impact will be blunted if the bountiful amounts of energy they’re set to generate can’t somehow be stored for times when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

A cutting edge solution is now being offered by the AES Corporation. The US-based energy giant recently signed an MoU with NEPCO to connect 20 MW of storage to the grid. If everything goes ahead, AES Country Manager Meftaur Rahman said it would be the first time his company’s battery-based technology was used by a utility in the region.

How will your technology help solve the problem of storing renewable energy?

About 600 MW of renewable energy is due to come online in Jordan by the end of next year. To put this in context, Jordan’s peak demand is about 3,000 MW. This storage technology helps solve some of the biggest challenges facing renewable energy sources, such as the fact that solar farms don’t provide energy at night. Producing renewable energy is also very quiet and clean, but it can be very costly if you don’t integrate it into the grid properly. This is because the 600 MW being provided by renewables during the day has to be provided in standby capacity at night. Our lithium-ion-based battery system helps integrate renewable energy into the grid and stabilize its output.

What’s needed to move the deal beyond the MoU stage?

We will be doing a joint study with NEPCO to identify what its real upcoming needs are to manage this 600 MW of renewable energy, which is set to increase year-on-year. Based on this we will then submit a non-binding proposal to NEPCO showing how much it will benefit them. We expect there to be a huge saving every year, running into the millions of dollars.

Jordan imports most of its energy. How much of a difference can renewables make to this?

Jordan is one of the best places for renewables. Its cost is going down year upon year and it’s now hitting a very good price in Jordan. The challenge lies in how you integrate and stabilize it. Once you have done this, the world is yours. Jordan doesn’t have its own indigenous fuel sources. By using solar power and storage, the country might reach a point in the future when it may need minimum import of energy for power generation. It could change the whole dynamic of this country.

Some companies like Tesla and Samsung are developing similar battery storage systems to integrate with domestic renewable energy systems. Is this something AES is also interested in doing?

Currently we are looking at working at the utilities level. But there are some other companies focusing on making batteries for households to make them energy independent. Ultimately, you need to store energy. We think it’s more efficient to store energy on a bigger scale.