With renewable energy growing at a staggering pace to meet ambitious carbon-free energy goals, the success of wind and energy projects depends more and more on the ability to store energy and meet consistent demand. This is because intermittent production projects like wind and solar need to deliver power consistently as coal and natural gas plants lose market share, with battery energy storage systems (BESS) becoming a crucial component for project success.
As battery storage has grown in recent years—252% or 910 MWh of new storage in 2021 in the U.S. —there is an equally growing need for solutions to monitor and maintain these highly complex assets. Some of the challenges that come with operating a BESS as part of a renewable energy project include the following:
- Identifying degraded conditions and impending failures before they occur, e.g., voltage mismatches, thermal runaways, etc
- Managing capacity and efficiency degradation
- Maintaining proper cooling systems
- Complying with warranty contract obligations
- Ensuring safety systems are available when needed
- Providing performance reports and other dashboard functions
Operators of renewable energy projects have embraced artificial intelligence (AI) technology to help them improve their maintenance schedules, detect an impending failure of crucial parts, and determine the best practices to maximize production. SparkCognition Renewable Suite has enabled significant savings and revenue growth for solar and wind assets and provides similar benefits for BESS projects.
Problems such as rack mismatch, thermal runaway risk, tripping offline, over- or under-charge, cell unbalancing, and voltage mismatches can be identified and remedied with Renewable Suite to limit maintenance costs. And with AI helping to identify the most optimal charge/discharge cycles, BESS projects can bring in the most revenue possible to help renewable energy projects stay competitive as prices for power purchase agreements (PPA) can fluctuate wildly from year to year.
AI enables BESS to flourish as renewables grow
In many ways, advancements in AI technology for renewable energy can be seen as making BESS viable for widespread, utility-scale use because of the highly sensitive nature of the equipment in use. Clara Midgley, SparkCognition’s product manager for energy storage and optimization, said the size and complexity of BESS for renewable energy projects make it unrealistic to maintain without deep AI analysis.
“With the scale of systems, easily over 100,000 cells at utility-scale projects, managing data and identifying anomalies is impossible manually. Threshold-based methods can be useful at block level to identify efficiency deficits, detect significantly high temperatures, or identify racks that are offline, but AI is needed to understand abnormal behavior that could be leading indicators of performance issues,” she said.
“Without ways to manage nuanced behavior across massive data sets, issues are identified too late after significantly decreased degradation or thermal damage has been done to a battery module, such that early replacement may be needed, increasing the cost of spare parts, downtime, maintenance costs, and strain on the rest of the system.”
Midgley said one of Renewable Suite’s most important and beneficial features is its use of AI models that work to identify mismatches in voltages, currents, and temperatures in racks sharing a DC bus bar. The models identify potential issues with the battery management system balancing, HVAC systems, and energy management system control modes that could be unnecessarily aging your batteries, giving operators the ability to raise a flag with an OEM so steps can be taken to address those issues and optimize asset life.
With BESS assets now upgraded from “nice to have” to “must have” status as they’ve become integral to renewable energy projects’ success, Midgley said storage provides protection against unpreventable events such as cloud cover, gusty wind patterns, and lack of online rotating equipment. For asset performance management systems such as Renewable Suite to be effective, there are several baseline requirements that must be met, including:
- Ingesting and analyzing large quantities of real-time asset performance and status data (which is sometimes imperfect or incomplete)
- Generating insightful, actionable maintenance recommendations that mitigate performance degradation or asset failure
- Providing monitoring and reporting capabilities that can be widely shared across the organization
- Seamlessly integrating with other assets/systems to support augmentation and/or modification throughout the asset’s lifetime
Midgley said SparkCognition’s work to continually improve Renewable Suite provides operators of renewable energy projects with BESS assets the best possible insights into overall health and performance.
“Renewable Suite automates KPI calculations, monitoring dashboards, and streamlines visualization-type analysis tools to help users make use of the ample data coming off storage sites in an efficient manner,” she said. “It has anomaly detection models around battery and inverter performance that can help alert to system issues before there is a failure. Alarm correlation to unavailable events can enable users to automate internal and contractual methods for availability calculations and provide additional insights into the resulting impact on the bottom line and opportunities for performance improvements.”
Renewable Suite helps to realize lower operating costs, improved efficiencies, and increased profitability for renewable projects using BESS assets to stay as competitive as possible.
Learn more about Renewable Suite, including its value for BESS projects, in our ebook AI for Renewable Energy: Building A More Sustainable World