Spanish wind power developer Acciona has bagged an industry award for battery storage research, amid claims the company is playing catch-up with an emerging trend. 

Aris Karcanias, co-lead of the clean energy practice at FTI Consulting, said Acciona “comes late to the party but is developing hybrid solutions to address a growing need for improved power quality” after the firm was praised by the Spanish wind industry association.

Two Acciona employees, Asun Padrós and Raquel Rojo, won this year’s innovation award from industry body Asociación Empresarial Eólica (AEE) for a study of a hybrid wind and battery storage plant in Barásoain, Navarre, which entered operation last month.

The Acciona plant is equipped with two Samsung lithium-ion battery systems, one providing 1 megawatt and 390 kilowatt-hours of power and the other delivering 700 kilowatts and 700 kilowatt-hours of energy, connected to a 3-megawatt wind turbine.

“The advantage of the model they have used is that it mimics real Spanish electricity market conditions and poses different wind generation and pricing scenarios on the wholesale and balancing markets,” said Alberto Ceña, technical services coordinator at the AEE.

This model is unique in the world, he claimed. But other wind industry players have been experimenting with battery storage for some time.

This month, for example, the Danish utility Dong announced the installation of a 2-megawatt battery system at its 90-megawatt Burbo Bank offshore wind farm, which is connected to the U.K. grid.

The battery system will be operational by the end of the year and will be used for frequency response. “It will be the first time an offshore wind farm is integrated with a battery system to deliver frequency response to the grid,” said Dong in a press release.

The announcement reflects market conditions where generation profiles, regulation and balance of plant cost reductions all help storage improve site economics.

In April, for example, Danish manufacturer Vestas was said to be “keen to expand into areas such as energy storage to increase the global use of wind power and bring costs down,” according to Reuters.

"The storage side is interesting, and there are a lot of small startups that might be of interest. I’m looking for industry batteries," Vestas chairman Bert Nordberg told the newswire. "If you can store over-production in a good way, it would take down the total cost."

Similarly, last year the Norwegian state-owned oil company Statoil said it was planning to add a 1-megawatt-hour lithium-ion battery system to a floating offshore wind farm in late 2018.

The project, called Batwind, was said to be designed to capture excess wind power, reduce balancing costs and increase revenues through price arbitrage.                                               

Around the same time, the Spanish original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Gamesa, which has been working on hybrid systems since 2007, unveiled a prototype combining wind power withsolar diesel and battery storage. The concept was aimed at investigating the potential of hybrid systems for off-grid power. 

Much of the historical development of wind-and-storage hybrid systems had been targeted at the off-grid segment, "where there is a significant and discrete business opportunity to undercut diesel fuel costs,” said FTI's Karcanias.

Many of the OEMs and storage developers that have sharpened their pencils in the off-grid market are now shifting their attention to the commercial opportunities presented in the on-grid segment, he said. The hybrid market has been slow to take off, though.

In Braderup, Germany, for example, Bosch piloted a hybrid system combining wind power with lithium-ion and vanadium redox flow battery storage back in 2014. Some have questioned its results.

“From any serious and objective viewpoint, the battery does very little indeed for the good burghers and investors of Braderup, let alone the operation of the local and national grid,” said a source involved in the project.

And one of the earliest forays into industrial-scale wind-linked storage was the Brilliant turbine launched by GE in 2013. The 2.5-megawatt machine initially came with GE Durathon sodium nickel-chloride batteries, which faded from the market in 2015

At launch, GE said the asset owner Invenergy was planning to take three Brilliant machines. It is not known how many more units were sold.