The South Korean company Kokam Co. Ltd. has been busy installing a number of large energy storage systems recently. A 24-megawatt (MW) system / 9-megawatt hour (MWh) system (the largest capacity Lithium NMC ESS used for frequency regulation in the world) and a 16 MW / 6 MWh Lithium NMC system came online in January. (A Kokam 16 MW / 5 MWh Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) ESS system did so in August 2015.) Ike Hong, vice president of Kokam’s Power Solutions Division, answered some questions for CleanTechnica about these projects and its products in general.
Where is the 24 MW/9 MWh system located and what is its primary purpose? Same question for the 16 MW/6 MWh.
The 24 MW / 9 MWh Ultra High Power NMC system is located in Shin-Gimje, South Korea. The 16 MW / 6 MWh Ultra High Power NMC system is located in Shin-Chungju, South Korea. For both the primary purpose is frequency regulation.
The 24 MW system provides frequency regulation for the South Korean grid… is it for the entire grid, or some part of it, like for a region or district?
The entire grid.
Why is frequency regulation important in general, and is there anything particular to this grid’s functioning that makes it important?
If there is a difference between power generation and demand on the grid, the grid’s frequency can move away from its nominal value. This can cause multiple problems – if generation is higher than demand, there can be short circuits in the network and the over-heating of end-customer devices. If demand is greater than generation, then brownouts or blackouts can occur. It is important to maintain a grid’s frequency no matter where it is – whether it is in Korea, the U.S., Europe, Africa, Australia or Asia.
If you don’t have this ‘extra’ frequency regulation, what would happen?
If there is not enough frequency regulation resources available to keep supply and demand on the grid balanced, grid equipment can be damaged or brownouts and blackouts can occur – resulting in significant economic costs. For this reason utilities maintain various resources – including extra spinning reserves at convention power plants – to regulate the grid’s frequency.
500 MW of battery-based energy storage is expected to be completed by 2017 for this system, why the huge expansion? And will it end with 500 MW or grow even more?
The 500 MW frequency regulation project by KEPCO is designed to improve the operational efficiency of the South Korean electric grid. By using energy storage systems to regulate the grid, rather than spinning reserves at convention power plants, KEPCO can improve its operation efficiency. This will allow KEPCO to shift energy generation to lower cost, more efficient power plants (reducing its fuel use) and decrease “wear and tear” on all its power plants. For example, the three Kokam ESSs will deliver an estimated annual savings of US$13 million in fuel costs, providing fuel cost savings three times larger than the ESSs’ purchase price over the systems’ lifetimes.
There are other benefits as well. For example, by reducing the amount of fossil fuels burnt for frequency regulation, the Kokam ESSs will help reduce KEPCO’s greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, because ESSs can respond in milli-seconds to frequency regulation signals rather than minutes for conventional power plants, power quality on the grid can be improved.
How many megawatt-hours will be associated with the 500 MW system, when it is completed?
We can’t estimate the exact number of MWh that will be associated with the 500 MW system because different Energy Storage Systems have different numbers for nameplate megawatt hours for each of their systems.
The expansion to 500 MW seems to be very fast… what allows you to grow the system so quickly?
Thanks to growing demand for batteries in the electronic device, military, aerospace, marine, Electric Vehicle (EV) and Energy Storage System (ESS) markets, the battery technology industry has grown. This has created a global battery technology ecosystem – particularly for lithium-ion batteries – that is able to meet further rapid increases in demand for advanced battery technologies. It is a virtuous circle – demand for battery technology grows, industry capacity and its ecosystem expands, costs are lowered and technologies are improved, and demand for battery technology grows further.
It is anticipated that, for the three energy storage systems, there will be $13 million in annual savings. Why will this happen?
These three Energy Storage Systems will allow KEPOC to reduce the amount of spinning reserves they maintain at convention power plants. This will enable KEPCO to shift energy generation to lower cost, more efficient power plants and decrease “wear and tear” on all its power plant. Specifically, by reducing the amount of spinning reserves maintained by KEPCO, the three Kokam ESSs will deliver an estimated annual savings of US$13 million in fuel costs, providing fuel cost savings three times larger than the ESSs’ purchase price over the systems’ lifetimes.
You seem to have a growing interest in energy storage systems… is that true, and if so, why? If it is true, will your interest continue to grow?
The global economy is undoing a transformation – towards a renewable energy powered, electrified economy. By allowing utilities, owners, homeowners and others to store and dispatch energy when it is needed, rather than only at the time it is generated, energy storage systems are an essential element in enabling and accelerating this transformation. This is particularly true since renewable energy resources, while clean, are often intermittent, and cannot dispatch power on demand. Energy storage systems solve this problem, allowing us to store excess clean power when it is not needed, and use it when it is.
We don’t think this transformation will slow down – it will only speed up. Given this, the need for energy storage systems – as well as other advanced battery solutions for military, aerospace, marine, Electric Vehicle (EV) applications – will continue to grow rapidly. Kokam has been at the forefront in this market for years, and plans to continue to be, leading the effort to develop and commercialize innovative, high-tech battery solutions that solve some of the world’s most challenging energy problems.
Can you provide any prices for the energy systems… What is the cost of the 24 MW/9 MWh system for example?
Given Kokam’s contract with KEPCO, it cannot disclose the cost per kWh of storage. However, Kokam can say that the cost per kWh of the Ultra High Power NMC technology Energy Storage Systems are cost-competitive with standard NMC technologies, while delivering better performance, a longer projected system life and other benefits.
Is more frequency regulation required for managing the growing inputs from solar and wind power?
Due to their intermittent nature renewable energy generation can result in the need for more frequency regulation. So, indirectly, energy storage systems can help utilities integrate more renewable energy resources into the portfolios, because they make it easier and more affordable for them to regulate frequency.
Are all of your energy storage solutions containerized… And if so, how many containers make up the 24 MW/9 MWh system?
12 containers make up the 24 MW/9 MWh system.
Do these energy storage systems have warranties, and if so, for how long?
The energy storage systems have 10 year operational warranties.
Image Credit: Kokam Co., Ltd