INTERVIEW: GIANPAOLO GIULIANI, GLOBAL SALES DIRECTOR, ENERGY STORAGE, GE ENERGY

The problems currently facing the efficiency and stability of the gird are multilayered, and grid-scale energy storage technologies are helping to deliver solutions. Ahead of his presentation at the Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition 2018,

Gianpaolo Giuliani, Global Sales Director, Energy Storage for GE Energy, explores some of the biggest innovations and technological developments in energy storage that are helping to achieve grid stabilisation.

Gianpaolo Giuliani has been with General Electric Company (GE) for almost 19 years and at the end of 2013 he moved from the rotating machinery and power generation space into energy management. He now leads the non-US business operations for GE’s energy storage business in Italy.

There are several challenges currently facing the grid, both in Australia and around the world, and Mr Giuliani said that he tends to consider the grid efficiency problem as a multilayered case.

“At the beginning, we started attacking the top layer – meaning the frequency and voltage stability – with battery storage standalone installations along the grid. We started this phase over six years ago and consider this the “legacy” of the storage application today.

“The most relevant challenge that a developer or a utility should be considering today when looking at standalone installations is the supply reliability, especially in the long term. That’s where companies with over 10 years of experience like GE make a big difference.”

Mr Giuliani believes the future for battery storage applications is in the upstream and downstream sections of electricity flow. In March, GE launched the Reservoir, a comprehensive energy storage platform to meet the energy industry’s rapidly changing energy needs. It’s a flexible, modular solution that is designed to meet storage needs across the grid.

“The generation side is where you can make the intermittent sources more stable and dispatchable, and you can be more flexible with thermal generation like we did with our first thermal hybrid last year; and on the demand side, you can block any back-surge before it reaches the main substations, by applying smart battery storage systems at the distribution grid level or even behind the meter.”

When thinking about the technological developments in energy storage that are helping to achieve grid stabilisation, Mr Giuliani said that without a doubt the most significant of these are speed, hybridisation and big data models.

“Today a battery storage system has a few hundred milliseconds response time, against something in the order of one second only five years ago. That allows milli-hertz signal to be followed with two decimal accuracy.

“With hybridisation, you can today make a gas turbine peaker as flexible as a zero-minimum power virtual turbine, or you can couple a solar plant with battery storage at the DC bus level.

“With big data and cloud computing, you can have models to predict the behaviour of the grid, and the corresponding demand from the batteries, to have very accurate state of charge management and dramatically reduce the risk of finding your battery system unable to face the grid needs at a point in time,” Mr Giuliani said.

What Australia and Italy can learn from each other

As Mr Giuliani is based in Italy, he sees the differences and similarities of Australia’s energy industry compared to Italy’s.

“We have four places in the world to learn from early experiences with battery storage: USA, Germany, Italy and the UK. In Germany and Italy, the market did not take off as rapidly as in USA, where we have a large installed fleet, or the UK, where we are building one of the largest battery storage systems in the country (41MW), with our partner, Arenko. There is no doubt these two countries have significantly contributed to improving our learning and understanding of all the possible uses of battery storage and related implications.

“Inland, Italy has a well-structured grid, with security built out on both internal redundancy and external interconnectors. On the other hand, Italy has some main islands where the grid security is still mandated to some local generation. There also are areas, especially in southern Italy, which have been saturated with massive renewable generation (both wind and solar) over the last couple of decades.

“So, like Australia, we have places in Italy where battery storage has been intensively tested to see how affordable, sustainable and energy efficient it is to improve grid quality in congested areas.

“In Italy, today, there is not a significant risk for blackouts, but the uncertainty in power supply with the increased renewables penetration has been pushing regulators to issue a deliberation mid last year, to support pilot projects where storage would be used to provide fast response services, alone or in conjunction with traditional peakers. We are seeing the first definition of some pilots getting underway.”

Where will energy storage be in ten years?

Mr Giuliani said one of the barriers to the implementation of storage into the grid is the wide variability in the regulatory landscape, where either subsidies exist or storage is in more open competition with traditional sources based on levelized cost of electricity (LCOE).

“Neither is ideal. A second barrier is that the analytics and models deployed to drive a utility’s business case often factor in battery systems without OEM inputs. This becomes even more of a gap when, as we are starting to see, they attempt to model a hybrid system. We need to close that gap and make sure storage inputs are considered.”

However, in the future he sees energy storage applications expanding towards the ends of the energy stream, with the battery storage system integrating into more assets along the grid to enable the grid to be more productive and more efficient.

“The technology is there; technology providers are there; it is just a matter of proving it works. And that’s what we are committed to at GE.”