A New Energy Storage Solution debuts in the Russian Railway Sector

MOSCOW: Battery technologies are all the craze these days as everyone is racing to find the perfect solution to energy storage for the growing share of solar and wind power in the grid.

But energy storage solutions are also making forays into the railways industry where batteries can help stabilize the railway electricity grid.

One new battery storage solution, developed by Italy-based power group Enel, will be tested and installed on the network of the Russian Railways.

“This is the first time this type of battery technology is used in the railway sector,” Enel, which has a very strong international renewables business, said upon announcing that it would test the “first-of-its-kind innovative storage system on Russia’s railway network.”

Enel and Russian Railways will team up to develop the energy storage solution in the hopes that it could help stabilize the Russian railway electricity grid, improve train operations, and avoid expensive grid upgrades that might otherwise be required.

While Enel was scarce on details in the announcement, information was obtained from the Italian company about what this “first-of-its-kind” innovative storage system is.

The batteries will be lithium, with a minimum capacity of 10 MWh, Enel told. At times of peak demand, the batteries can be automatically activated through an Enel in-house software to help respond to the growing energy demand of the railways system. Once installed on certain railway sections, the batteries could help make the train service faster, Enel says.

The power company plans to couple the energy storage system with regenerative braking technology. This regenerative braking tech uses the energy that the train generates when it brakes to charge the batteries. The energy will be stored in the batteries for later use, which could help the railway network to reduce its overall energy consumption.

However, the Enel technology is still in a development and test phase—it’s not ready to be installed on the network of the Russian Railways yet.

The partnership with Russian Railways will entail a testing phase of up to three months, which is expected to begin by the end of 2018, Enel told. During the test phase, Enel will install a single battery in a laboratory at Russian Railways, where the energy storage technology can be tested for performance in a controlled environment.

Enel and Russia also have collaborations in the renewables industry in the country.

Currently, Enel is active on the Russian power market with a listed subsidiary, Enel Russia, which operates four thermal power plants in the Russian Federation with a total installed capacity of around 9.5 GW.

Last year Enel announced its entry into the renewables sector in Russia. Enel was awarded two wind projects for a total capacity of 291 MW, as part of the Russian government’s 2017 tender for the construction of 1.9 GW of wind capacity in the country. The Azov wind farm in southern Russia and the Murmansk wind farm in northwestern Russia will be developed and built by Enel Green Power, Enel’s global renewable energies division.

Russia aims to have 4.5 percent of energy generation from renewables and 5.5 GW of installed renewable capacity by 2024, Enel said in June last year.

As odd as it may seem, Russia generates a fifth of its energy from hydropower. This might sound shocking for a country whose image is so tightly linked to oil and gas, but Russia has a lot of big rivers and it’s putting them to good use. Russia is moving into other renewables and into energy storage as well.

Enel’s battery technology for energy storage in the railway sector is in its very early stages, but it could turn out to be a development worth tracking.