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We've been gone for a little, but we're back and want to share some information we learned during our break on how to deal with ...
08.10 AM / 08 December, 2022
The latest battery and climate news intercalated into your inbox | time 7 min

The Moving Landscape of Stationary Storage

The cost of grid energy is on the up and up, can stationary storage keep it still?

Gaël Mourouga and Andrew Wang take us through various applications in the stationary storage world. If you enjoy this newsletter, please give us a share and subscribe!

In the world of electrified mobility, the design constraints for travel times and the space we humans occupy mean the market has decided that today, only lithium and sodium batteries are viable.

Energy storage for the grid, however, is still a wide-open field. In our “Energy or Power?article we showed that mechanical, thermal, electrochemical, and other technologies (like domes and vaults) are all vying for a piece of the pie based on their storage characteristics and application needs. We also saw that batteries are expanding their coverage of this market.

Which side-of-the-meter?

There is no one-size-fits-all battery, so the first step is to understand the stationary-storage applications and their required key performance indicators (KPIs).

Adapted from [source]

A broad way of dividing stationary applications is between behind-the-meter (BTM) and in-front-of-the-meter (FTM) applications, which comes down to an energy system’s position in relation to your electric meter. Simply put:

  • BTM systems provide power that can be used on-site without passing through a meter

    • Residential applications

    • EV charging stations

    • Data centers

    • Microgrids

  • FTM systems provide power to off-site locations, passing through the electricity grid first

    • Frequency regulation

    • Peak shaving

    • Seasonal storage

As we will see in this article, these applications vary a lot in what they demand from a battery system, and how they pay out for each unit of power and/or energy.

Behind-the-meter applications

BTM applications are very diverse, as the term encompasses all applications that take place on the customer’s side (and are therefore subject to customer prices), as opposed to the grid-managing utility’s side (subject to market prices).

We can further split BTM applications between residential and C&I (commercial and industrial).

Residential BTM applications

Bill management and self-consumption optimisation

The typical use case of home storage is in combination with rooftop solar: a customer may want to optimize its energy use by charging a battery using the panels during the day and discharging the battery at peak hours in the evening or the next morning, taking advantage of the price difference between peak and off-peak hours.

Difference between peak and off-peak prices in Australia, credits to Aurora Energy.

While it also works in the absence of solar panels, in most countries the difference between peak and off-peak prices for customers is currently too low to justify buying a standalone battery system.

For example, on the prices for Australia shown above, and assuming a Tesla Power Wall 2, (7 kW peak power rating and 13.5 kWh capacity for a price of AUD 17,000) it would cost an Australian home-owner AUD 4.04 to charge the battery during off-peak hours and would save AUD 8.68 on the electricity bill to discharge it during peak hours, or a net benefit of AUD 4.64 per day. Therefore, it would take about 10.2 years for the battery to pay itself, which is about the time you can expect it to operate reliably. So, unless home battery prices come down further and/or electricity prices go up significantly in the next years, a standalone battery system currently seems like a questionable investment.

With solar panels on the roof, the situation is a bit different: a 6.6 kW solar array will produce a yearly average of 30 kWh per day, for an installation price of about AUD 7,000. Charging the battery is now effectively free between 10 am and 4 pm, and you even have an extra 16.5 kWh that you can sell at a feed-in tariff of about 6 c/kWh. The net benefit is now AUD 7.65 per day, so it would take about 8.6 years for the whole system to pay itself… a bit better, and at least the panels have a 25-year warranty. More importantly, though, it provides a layer of protection against blackouts.

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

In the US, black-out events seem to have doubled in frequency in between 2015 and 2020. If this trend persists, and as more and more households are equipped with solar panels, it is not unlikely to see rising investments in battery systems that can keep lights, fridges, and heating running during a blackout.

According to this 2015 study, the length of black-out events in the US varied between 7 minutes (VT) and 18 hours (SD). In more recent events, such as the 2021 Texas power crisis, residents were cut from the power supply for over 3 days, and electricity prices shot up to more than 300x their usual values in some cases.

Therefore, it is likely that homeowners looking for energy security will be looking for storage systems that can ensure at least 24 hours of electricity supply in case of a complete black-out, counting on solar panels to charge the battery if the event lasts for several days.

Commercial and Industrial BTM applications

EV fast-charging stations

We wrote in a previous article, and it is supported by academic studies, that fast charging has a real impact on the grid. A simple alleviating measure would be to place batteries at the charging station, which would charge during off-peak hours and provide the load required for fast charging when traffic hits its peak.

Conceptual charging station with three ports: (a) power converter, (b) cables to distribute power to vehicles, (c) sheltered charging location, (d) energy storage system (ESS), (e) 15 kV-class feeder that connects directly. Credit: Jonathan Kimball, Missouri S&T and The American Ceramic Society.

The daily traffic in a highway service area looks something like this on a typical day around Bordeaux in France:

Assuming that about 1’000 cars visit the station per day for a fill-up, that’s about 80 cars at peak traffic hour, between 4 and 5 pm. Let us consider that in a near future, all these cars are electric (and let’s assume a 50 kWh battery that can be charged in one hour using 50 kW high-power chargers) you’d need 80 high-power chargers to meet the peak demand, drawing up to 4 MW on the grid. This peak demand occurs roughly at the same time as the evening peak electricity demand for households, we can imagine some headaches for grid operators needing to balance the grid frequency in the near future.

Alleviating this load on the grid would be made possible by a battery system charging between 9pm and 6pm, supplemented with solar panels during the day.

Data centers (UPS)

Data centers place a huge emphasis on reliability, as illustrated by the eBay data center in Utah which loses $6000 per second of downtime. They usually target a 99.999% uptime which requires on-site emergency generation infrastructures, currently covered by diesel generators in most cases, leading to data centers emitting nearly as much as the aviation and shipping sectors combined. Decarbonisation of this sector is therefore critical and would be made possible by on-site, low-carbon backup systems such as batteries.

Data centers, Photo by Manuel Geissinger on Pexels.

According to a 2021 study by the Ponemon Institute, data centers across the Americas experience an average of 7 primary power outages per year, lasting for an average of 2 hours, the longest events being up to 72 hours. Most data centers require about 10 MW of power consumption so a hypothetical storage system replacing diesel generators would need a large capacity, above 720 MWh to ensure power during the longest events.

Renewable co-location

More and more countries incentivize renewable projects to build a certain amount of storage co-located with wind turbines or solar panels to smooth out generation patterns and alleviate the impact of intermittency on the grid.

Battery storage systems co-located with solar panels and wind turbines. Credits to Rao Konidena from Renewable Energy World.


Microgrids connect electricity generation and consumption at a more local scale than the electric grid, for example in a neighborhood or in off-grid communities. They may be particularly helpful in electrifying communities in rural areas (in Africa for example), effectively leapfrogging their connection to a centralized electric grid.

Modular microgrid solutions developed by Zürich-based ABB in cooperation with power grid control expert DEIF of Denmark. Credits to ABB.

In-front-of-the-meter applications

FTM applications are all things related to grid regulation applications. Battery Energy System (BESS) operators should be able to bid on 4 categories of markets based on the timeline of the regulation provided (from milliseconds to months). It should be noted however that electricity markets around the world, such as Australia, the European Union or various regions in the United States differ by a fair margin, owing to different price clearing methods. Most of our examples here are provided for Europe.

Balancing reserves

Frequency Containment Reserves (FCR) are activated within seconds to keep the frequency of a synchronous area constant. Other reserve types include automatic and manual frequency restoration reserves (aFRR and mFRR) and replacement reserve (RR), which act on a time scale from tens of seconds to tens of minutes. These four types of reserves are priced differently, as shown on the Entso-e transparency platform from which price data can be retrieved.

Table view of prices for different balancing reserves (FCR, aFRR and mFRR) in Germany on 31.08.2022. Source: Entso-e transparency platform.

Bidding on the FCR market is suitable for high-power, short-response time systems such as utility-scale lithium-ion batteries.

Intraday market

On the intraday market, electricity can be traded up to 5 minutes before delivery and through hourly, half-hourly or quarter-hourly contracts, as shown below:

Graph view of the Intraday prices in Germany-Luxembourg from the EPEX-spot market data for 30.08.2022

Bidding on the intraday market may be interesting for short-duration storage systems looking to play on the granularity of prices over a few hours.

Day-ahead market

In the day-ahead market, all hours of the following day are traded in an auction where the order book closes at 12:00. Day-ahead price data can be retrieved from the Entso-e platform or the EPEX spot website for many different European countries.

Graph view of the day-ahead prices in Germany-Luxembourg from the EPEX-spot market data for 30.08.2022 (auction issued on 29.08.2022)

Bidding on the day-ahead market may be interesting for longer duration storage systems (between 4h and 12h) looking to play on the difference between peak hour prices (in the morning 6-9 am and in the evening 5-9 pm) and off-peak hour prices (at night and in the middle of the day).

Forward market or Power Futures

Power Futures relate to contracts made on electricity prices a week, month, quarter, or year in advance.

Table view of quarterly (peak load) forward market contracts in Germany (from Q4 2022 to Q1 2024) from the EPEX-spot market data.

This market may be particularly interesting for very long-duration, or seasonal storage systems operators, looking to charge their systems at predicted quarterly or yearly electricity price lows and sell at the peaks.

It is worth noting that European markets are currently registering new records on the day-ahead market, as illustrated by this snapshot from the EPEX spot website

Map view of day-ahead (averaged) electricity prices for Europe on 30.08.2022 from the EPEX-spot website

For reference, anything above €75-100 was considered expensive before 2020. These records are correlated with high gas prices and the war in Ukraine, but are unlikely to go away in a grid with increasing penetration of variable renewables and more extreme weather events.

Above all, these prices are a market signal for the need for a reliable electricity supply, which stationary energy storage could answer.


In an electricity market moving away from fossil fuels, the applications for cheap, reliable, and efficient stationary storage are many, and they will become increasingly profitable.

The next question is then: in the absence of a one-size-fits-all technology, which technologies seem the most promising in different applications?

In part 2 of this series, we will have a closer look at some of the most advanced next-generation technologies, quantifying their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and looking at startups bringing them to the market.

🌞 Thanks for reading!

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03.13 PM / 08 December, 2022

Erika Thompson

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"Such problematic, such frightful poems..."

A translation of an early Ukrainian war poem, a comment, and an invitation

I have just finished teaching my open class at Yale, “The Making of Modern Ukraine.” It has been work to write the twenty new lectures, but it has been very gratifying to know that these lectures have been viewed millions of times around the world, including in Ukraine itself. (The link above is video; this is the podcast version).

In the penultimate lecture, on culture, I read my own translation of a poem by Julia Musakovska, which I first heard myself this summer (and which I recited myself in Ukrainian in front of a camera at one point.) Now my English translation, like other things from that class, is making its own little career on the internet. So I thought I would set it down here, and then offer some comments. Julia’s poem is found in her the collection Zalizo/Zelazo (Iron), which was published this summer by the Borderland Foundation in Poland. The poem itself dates from March.  Here goes:

Such problematic, such frightful poems

Full of anger

So politically incorrect

No beauty in these poems

No aesthetic at all

The metaphors withered and fell to pieces

Before they could bloom

The metaphors buried

In children’s playgrounds

Under hastily raised crosses


In unnatural poses

By the gates of houses

Covered in dust

They prepared meals over an open fire

They did try to survive

It was of dehydration that they perished

Under the rubble

Shot in a car

Under a white flag

Made from a sheet

With colorful backpacks over their shoulder

They lie on the asphalt

Face down

Next to the cats and dogs

I'm sorry to say so, but such verses

Are all we have for you today

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen


Of the theater of war

In the lecture, I wanted to make the point that the poem answers itself, in a couple of ways.

Bakhmut, Ukraine, 3 December 2022

First, this poem is only one example of a flood of Ukrainian creativity during this war. Looking at the horrors of the trenches around Bakhmut, people invoke the First World War. But another resemblance to that era is the unspoken assumption that war itself must be described, and that art is there to describe it, that nothing is beyond art. To be sure, different people have responded in different ways, and many creative people are now in the armed forces — where some of them continue their creative work. But in general, as far as I can make out, the attitude seems to be that the war calls for more creation and documentation, not less.

Second, there is nothing problematic or awkward about the poem itself. It is elegant and powerful. It reminds us how metaphors work. The awkwardness and the frightfulness resides not in the poem, but in us. The poem helps us own this. What are we supposed to do, we the spectators of the theater of war? When we feel awkward about the suffering of others, we sometimes find ways to make it all about ourselves. Hence all of the feckless talk about “escalation” and so on. Our fears then displace others’ experiences.

Bakhmut, 4 December 2022

But in the end that leaves us feeling more awkward. The way to relieve the sense of awkwardness is to do something to help. In this horrible war of atrocity, the Ukrainians have made this easy for us. This is not a conflict where it is unclear whom to help or how. Both the Ukrainian state and Ukrainian civil society are highly functional, which means that it is quite simple to do something more than spectate.

If you want to help Ukrainians stay warm despite the Russian campaign to take down their entire power grid with missiles and drones, make a (tax-deductible) donation to Razom. If you want to support Ukrainian aims through President Zelens’kyi’s own platform, United 24, you can do so here. I am an “ambassador” for a campaign there to defend Ukrainian cities from Russian attacks. If you want to support Ukrainians who are at work in the arts, sciences, and in journalism to document this war, make a (tax-deductible) contribution to Documenting Ukraine.

These are three causes with which I am personally associated; other reputable people can recommend others (and in earlier posts I have other, longer lists). The Ukrainians are not only in need, they are offering us so very much — that will be the subject of my next, longer post.

So, please, don’t just spectate.

7 December 2022

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