If you work at a busy manufacturing company the chances are your energy consumption will need to increase in the next few years. You will also be under intense pressure to reduce your carbon emissions. How can this dilemma be solved?
The biggest step most manufacturing companies could take to reduce carbon emissions would be to change energy provision. Yet, according to a recent CDP report, only 28% of companies have a low-carbon transition plan in place to meet their climate goals.
Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) have been described as the true bridge to a clean-energy future, because the storage units make it possible to store energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar PV.
However, this association with renewable energy has switched off many manufacturers from exploring the BESS option, mistakenly believing that because a BESS can only deliver energy for relatively short periods of time, it can’t be part of the solution for them. Or perhaps thinking that because they have no solar PV or wind turbines on site a BESS can’t help them.
These are common misconceptions. The reality can be surprisingly different, and there are five clear signs that should point companies towards considering a BESS:
1) Your annual energy bill is over £100K
You can charge your battery at cheaper times of day, store energy and use it from the BESS rather than the grid at more expensive times. The cost benefits to those paying upwards of £100k PA cannot be ignored.
It is even possible sell back your stored energy if you have more than your business needs, providing a return on investment via grid connection and as an energy sales asset. This can deliver an ROI in around five years depending on your consumption patterns. Sooner perhaps, if the price of fuel continues to rise.
2) Your site will reach the limit of its grid supply
New equipment – in quantity or by design – can drive up energy consumption and may mean you face grid constraints. It costs thousands to install a new transformer or new cables to increase your energy capacity. A BESS can be more cost effective to install than a new or increased grid connection and gives the ability to store energy when your own demand is low, to use when your need is high.
3) Your need to use more electricity but want to reduce your carbon footprint
Companies need to demonstrate real carbon impacts without greenwashing. Environmental, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) is a big issue among shareholders, and they want to see proof. But you still need energy to power production processes.
With a BESS you can buy and store electricity generated from external renewable sources if you have a flexible energy contract. The BESS management system allows you to select the optimal time of day to purchase energy from which gives an immediate and real reduction in carbon emissions which you can report with data sources.
4) You have already improved your systems and processes
Many manufacturing companies have been working for years to reduce their impact on the environment by reducing waste, improving recycling and operational efficiency in line with the waste reduction hierarchy. Incremental improvements are therefore increasingly hard to achieve.
A BESS offers a way to make a step change in carbon emissions that few if any other actions can deliver in this situation. It can be made from new or second life vehicle batteries, and both will allow the above benefits of cost reduction, grid connection and selective energy usage to be achieved. But the second life version has a dramatically different impact on carbon reduction and the circular economy.
A battery is usually considered at the end of its useful life in a vehicle when it falls to 80 to 75% of its original capacity. This still leaves a substantial remaining capacity which can be used in a BESS. Two to three sets of batteries will be needed to maintain capacity over a circa 20-year time frame.
In the current climate it would be an unacceptable waste of resources to discard the value in a battery prematurely. Over its lifetime in operation, a second life BESS can save an additional 450 tonnes per MWh of CO2 equivalent compared to using first life batteries.
It is the second life version of a BESS which hits the sweet spot economically and environmentally. Intellectually it is also a very exciting technological breakthrough and one which the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) North West is showcasing.
5) You need to set ESG goals and achieve them
Manufacturers are being pressured from every direction to cut carbon emissions. The global standard for corporate climate-related financial reporting is the framework of The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and under their framework, investors are calling for meaningful information on how companies are preparing for the climate transition and reducing carbon emissions.
In the UK the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has begun its review of industries where there are consumer concerns about misleading ‘green claims’. Many countries in Europe such as Denmark have similar schemes.
In this respect a BESS and the data it can provide can be a huge help. Writing in the Manufacturer recently Mark Hughes from Epicor said: “Suppliers that successfully establish their environmental impacts through accurate measurement are proven to be equipped to set ambitious, timebound goals to reduce them.”
This brings us to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the role of energy storage in another very powerful application of this new technology which will appeal to many manufacturers, regardless of their renewable energy capacity.
Harness the power of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Two second life storage units from Connected Energy, the only company in the UK to manufacture second life BESS, will be installed at the University of Sheffield AMRC as part of a project to demonstrate the capability of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and smart technology in a manufacturing environment to understand, influence, and change the key levers in carbon reduction.
A range of technologies will be implemented to understand energy usage, occupancy and asset parameters, environmental conditions, utilisation of micro grid technology and visualisation through a user-friendly dashboard.
The BESS will be at the heart of the project, open to visitors as a demonstrator site to raise awareness of the latest technology and how it is retrofittable to legacy manufacturing facilities.
Driving the circular economy: a vision of the future
All these benefits apply to manufacturing sites without their own renewable energy sources but in fact the sector is especially well suited to on-site energy generation.
Picture a manufacturing plant just off the motorway. Its roof, the size of a football pitch, is covered with an array of solar panels. They charge up a battery energy storage system with clean ‘free’ energy.
An electric HGV is being loaded, while at the same time it is plugged in and being charged up. Electric forklift trucks are scooting back and forth. Manufacturing lines are running in sequence. An air heat source pump maintains a comfortable environment.
The energy consumption and supply of each is being monitored through the IIoT and BESS dashboard while the system is charging and discharging seamlessly behind the scenes.
The BESS itself consists of a stack of second life vehicle batteries, which are cleverly built into steel containers and connected to the grid ‘behind the meter’. The old batteries are helping to power the new ones in the HGVs and other equipment with clean energy and so a perfect circular economy and low carbon energy solution is at work.
This vision will soon be reality.
There are BESSs at work in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. In the UK, there are units made from second life vehicles installed in Dundee, Norfolk and Bedfordshire.
According to estimates from esource, manufacturing facilities use on average 95.1 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per square foot each year. This will vary enormously by sub sector, but it gives an idea of just how significant the carbon savings can be by incorporating a BESS into your energy transition plans.
About the author
With 20 years experience in the low carbon energy and transport sectors, Matthew Lumsden founded Connected Energy to commercialise a range of energy storage and control systems developed by parent company Future Transport Systems. In the emerging energy storage sector, a key focus of Connected Energy is to provide customers with end to end expertise and support in developing their projects.
In 2014 Matthew founded Connected Energy to provide energy storage systems and operating services.
Matthew has a 1st Class degree in Business Administration and spent his earlier career in sales and marketing in the construction industry.