France Continues Exploring Energy Storage

French electric utility EDF (Electricité de France) is evaluating use of an advanced Li-ion battery storage system for grid frequency regulation at its Concept Grid Lab. Located south of Paris at EDF’s R&D site in Les Renardières, Seine-et-Marne region, EDF’s Concept Grid Lab is a live power distribution network designed to support, help design and test “bleeding” and cutting-edge smart grid technology.

EDF will be testing the 1-MW Li-ion smart power storage system’s ability to maintain frequency levels on its Concept Grid Lab test grid over the course of about a year.  Alstom and Saft supplied the system. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The R&D lab enables EDF to subject the storage system to extreme conditions – spikes and troughs in grid frequency well outside the bounds experienced on commercial grids for example, Saft marketing and business development manager Michael Lippert said in an interview.

Using a smart Li-ion battery storage solution to maintain grid frequency levels within required bounds “is quite an innovative and forward-looking,” as well as critical, utility application of the technology in France, as well as in Europe more generally, Lippert pointed out.

Faster, Smarter and More Precise

Traditionally accomplished by maintaining reserve generation capacity of around 5 percent across conventional power plants – in most cases nuclear or coal-fired in France – “frequency regulation is a must in order to balance electricity supply and demand, maintain the stability and performance of the grid” and avoid brownouts and blackouts, Lippert explained.

The general view is that smart battery storage systems can respond much faster to spikes and drops in grid frequency than reserve capacity at conventional power plants – in a matter of milliseconds, Lippert explained. In addition to much faster response and power ramp-up and ramp-down times, the Alstom-Saft solution can maintain grid frequency with much greater precision and efficiency, he said.

In France power producers such as EDF are obligated to maintain the frequency of electricity flowing on power grids. “It’s a somewhat different market model than that of the U.S.,” Lippert pointed out.

Saft delivered its first containerized, utility-grade Intensium Max smart Li-ion battery storage system in 2012. Since then, the company has installed about 80-MWs of such systems worldwide.

Growing Market Demand, and Applications

Saft’s Li-ion battery storage technology is up and running at remote sites where weather and climate conditions can be extreme, including Alaska, Bolivia and a remote Canadian community north of the Arctic Circle. The technology is also being used on island nations, including Japan and the Faroe Islands between Denmark and Finland.

The company is targeting French territories such as La Réunion in the Indian Ocean and French Caribbean islands, Lippert said.

More broadly, the U.S. and the Americas number among Saft’s most important markets, Lippert noted. In the U.S., Saft’s utility-grade Intensium Max systems have been installed in California and Hawaii, as well as Alaska.

When it comes to grid applications, renewables integration is the main focus in Europe. Besides EDF’s installation, Saft’s Intensium Max Li-ion solution has been integrated with PV generation for the city of Nice’s power grid and integrated with wind power generation at the Venteea wind farm. Located at Aube in eastern France, the 2-MW/1.3-MWh smart Li-ion energy storage system at Venteea is the largest installed in France to date.

Smart Li-ion battery storage is on the rise as part of microgrid installations as well, Lippert noted. Providing ancillary grid services, such as frequency regulation, as well as smart grid applications that time-shift or shave peak electricity demand, have emerged more recently but are increasing as well, he added.

In addition to these markets and applications, Saft is supplying smart Li-ion energy storage solutions for mobility – electric vehicles (Evs) – as well as telecommunications. It also offers a residential-scale Intensium Home system that’s popular in Germany. Looking to bridge the gap between residential and commercial applications, Saft rece


  • Andrew reports on renewable energy, clean technology and other issues and topics from posts abroad and here in the US.

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