Energy storage is set to play a vital role in ensuring the economic viability of renewable energy by addressing its intermittency issues to make it available on demand. Equally, energy storage can play an important political role in the change to a low carbon economy by ensuring that the lights always stay on.

Energy Storage Solutions

Interview with Michael Lippert | Saft Batteries

1 – What is Saft’s main area of expertise in energy storage and what technologies does it offer?

Saft is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of advanced technology batteries for industrial and defence applications with sales in 2009 of  around $800 million. We are present in 19 countries and have 15 manufacturing sites worldwide.

For over 100 years, Saft nickel-based rechargeable batteries have set the industry standard for robustness, reliability and long-life. Our range has established an outstanding track-record in providing effective energy storage to support off-grid renewable energy schemes, especially solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, even in extreme conditions.

Saft has also pioneered for over 10 years the development and industrialization of lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology and has introduced it successfully in the defence, space and automotive markets. We are now building on this wealth of experience to deliver the reliable, maintenance-free energy storage systems vital to facilitate the effective integration of renewable energy sources within power networks.

Our world-class Li-ion technology is backed up with world-class manufacturing facilities. This includes our new $191 million Jacksonville plant, developed with the support of the US Department of Energy, dedicated to the high volume production of Li-ion battery systems.

2 – Why does Saft believe that energy storage can play a vital role in facilitating the increased penetration of renewables within power grids?

The inherent variability and unpredictability of renewable energy sources is a key challenge in integrating them within established power grids designed to serve traditional methods of power generation that can be turned on and off as required. There are a number of ways that energy storage can be implemented throughout the electricity value chain – from generation, through transmission and distribution, to the consumers – to address this variability to help facilitate the increased penetration of renewable energy into power grids.

Saft has developed a range of battery systems to meet every on-grid energy storage need – from local energy management in individual homes to grid stabliization in electricity transmission and distribution networks.

3 – Why is energy storage important to the smart grid concept and who benefits the most from energy storage on this grid?

Until quite recently, smart grid development programs have tended to focus on aspects such as new transmission and distribution technologies and how to add digital intelligence. There is now though a growing recognition that a smart grid without energy storage would be as limited as a computer without a hard drive.

The importance of energy storage to the smart grid was emphasized in the 2008 report by the US Electricity Advisory Committee ‘Bottling Electricity: Storage as a Strategic Tool for Managing Variability and Capacity Concerns in the Modern Grid’. This report noted that ‘Many of the drivers for a Smart Grid are based on a desire to improved capacity factors through either incentives or controls. Beyond some point that remains to be determined, there is likely to be some public resistance to the degree of load-shifting (and high real-time prices) entailed in the deployment of demand response/load management programs. Energy storage technology offers another path to help balance the system as a means to adapt production to demand while improving capacity factors. As such, the deployment of energy storage technologies may be more acceptable politically than other types of infrastructure upgrades and potentially less disruptive to the US economy and society. This outcome will provide powerful motivation to invest in energy storage technologies R&D.’

So the primary beneficiaries are likely to be grid operators who require energy storage to bring their smart grid plans to fruition. It could also benefit consumers as local energy storage allied with renewable energy schemes could help make them ‘zero-net’ electricity users – making just as much electricity as they need and using energy storage to ensure reliability and availability of supply, possibly even making money by selling excess energy to the local grid.

4 – What are the specific advantages of Li-ion batteries compared with competing energy storage technologies?

In comparison with other battery technologies, Li-ion technology offers many valuable technical features for energy storage systems:

One of its most important features is its high energy density of 135 Wh/L – this indicates the amount of energy that can be stored within a certain size of battery. So the better the energy density then the smaller a battery can be to perform its required duty. Li-ion also has high power capability of 800 W/L in both charge and discharge.

Li-ion has a very short response time, which is limited only by the power electronic associated with the battery installation, so it is able to supply a fast dynamic response to changing grid conditions

Li-ion has excellent cycling capability which results in a long service life – typically 20 years with daily cycles down to 60 percent depth of discharge (DOD). It also has a high round-trip efficiency of 95 percent – this indicates how well a battery stores energy and then redelivers it when needed.

Li-ion batteries are completely maintenance-free and they can provide immediate self-diagnostic information on their state of health (SOH) and state of charge (SOC).

Thanks to its high recycling rate, Li-ion has a significantly lower environmental footprint than other technologies.

In addition to the technical advantages of Li-ion, it also has the important commercial advantages of being a fully realized battery technology available on an industrial scale. So Li-ion energy storage solutions are ready for implementation here and now.

5 – Where in the grid can energy storage offer the most practical advantages – is it at the transmission level, distribution level or consumer level?

Energy storage has the potential to offer considerable practical advantages at all levels from generation right through transmission and distribution to the consumer:

Firstly, energy storage can support large renewable generation plants to improve their network capability by: smoothing intermittent generation and reducing ramp rates so that it comes on and off line in a controlled way. Capacity firming also maintains production within a predictable window. Furthermore, energy storage can provide local dynamic voltage support to help improve network stability

For transmission grids, energy storage can address the stability issues relating to the increased penetration of intermittent and unpredictable energy sources. This includes providing vital ancillary services to ensure that synchronized reserves are available, instantly, without the need for fuel-consuming reserve generators. It will also contribute to frequency and area regulation.

At the distribution level, energy storage can play a key role in highly stressed parts of the grid that are operating close to their maximum load. For example, it can defer or even eliminate the need for major investments in network infrastructure to handle demand peaks. It can also provide dynamic voltage support and optimize power flows within smart grids.

Energy storage also has a role to play in local energy management for distributed installations, such as residential, CES (Community Energy Storage) and commercial or small industrial systems. Here it provides effective ‘time-shifting’ of energy form low-value to high-value periods, providing operators and developers of renewable energy schemes with an optimum return on their investment. It also de-links supply from demand, reduces peak demands and improves power quality and reliability.

6 – What are the technical and economic barriers are there to the widespread introduction of energy storage schemes?

From Saft’s perspective there are no significant technical barriers. The main barriers are purely economic since as with all new technologies the initial investment is high. However, as energy storage becomes more widespread and production volumes increase then I anticipate that costs will become more affordable for investors, especially when they consider the whole life costs of their installations and the very real benefits they will bring to electricity networks.


7 – Are there any current applications where energy storage is already being deployed successfully?

Saft Li-ion energy storage is being deployed in a number of strategic projects aimed at developing distributed solar power systems. Examples in Europe and in North America are:


Saft is the global coordinator for the Sol-ion project, Europe’s largest photovoltaic energy storage development project. Its objective is to develop an integrated conversion, storage and management kit for solar energy, suitable for production on an industrial scale for decentralized on-grid, residential schemes.

The project is introducing Li-ion batteries into solar energy systems on the largest scale ever tested in Europe: 75 systems are being deployed in Germany and France in trials that will validate the performance of the system, its economic viability, the added value of energy storage in an on-grid photovoltaic system, and the benefits for stakeholders.


 Saft Li-ion battery technology will also supply renewable energy storage for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) photovoltaic (PV) storage pilot program at Anatolia III, a high penetration PV community within SMUD’s service territory. SMUD was awarded $4.3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct a two-year pilot project to examine the value of distributed PV coupled with energy storage in 15 homes and three sites on SMUD’s distribution system within the community. The project will allow assessment of the combined PV system and energy storage capability and determine how storage is able to modify patterns of electricity usage in the homes.


Saft Li-ion battery technology will supply megawatt level energy storage for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) Recycled Energy and Optimization Project. Saft was selected by Viridity Energy to design, manufacture and commission the battery, which will also be one of the first dual purpose trackside Energy Storage Systems (ESS) in the United States.

The Energy Optimization project is designed to capture energy from rail cars through a regenerative braking process and then utilize the energy for accelerating trains, and to generate revenue through demand-side participation in power markets. A strong pilot could lead to potential deployment at up to 32 SEPTA substations.

ABB DynaPeaQ

ABB has commissioned its first DynaPeaQ energy storage installation for UK Power Networks at a site in Norfolk, England. The system is based on ABB’s SVC Light® technology, combined with Saft Li-ion battery storage and is located in an 11kV grid with considerable penetration of wind power. This is the first time an electrical energy storage device has been installed on an 11kV distribution network in the UK.

The installation yields dynamic voltage control in the distribution system and at the same time enables dynamic storage of surplus energy from wind farms, which can be utilized to level out peaks in grid loading and increase grid stability. Using this strategy, the power harnessed from the wind can be put to more efficient use than would otherwise be possible.

The dynamic energy storage system deployed by UK Power Networks was designed and built as a turnkey project by ABB. The battery storage is an add-on to the well established SVC Light technology, a fast IGBT based converter used for tasks such as voltage control, flicker mitigation and active filtering. The energy storage system deployed for UK Power Newtorks includes eight stacks of battery modules housed in a 25 sqm building. The modules can store up to 200 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electrical energy.

8  - In your vision of the future, how do you see energy storage fitting into our way of life politically, economically, commercially and on an individual level?

My view is that we can not regard renewable energy generation like wind and solar photovoltaic sources as a viable element within the global energy mix unless they are supported by effective and efficient energy storage.

Energy storage is set to play a vital role in ensuring the economic viability of renewable energy by addressing its intermittency issues to make it available on demand. Equally, energy storage can play an important political role in the change to a low carbon economy by ensuring that the lights always stay on.

At the individual level, I can see a time when domestic Li-ion energy storage systems, no bigger than a fridge freezer and linked to roof-mounted PV arrays, become as unremarkable as home PCs are today.



Marketing and Business Development Manager Energy Storage Systems

Michael Lippert has a degree in European Business Studies in France and Germany, and has been working over the past 15 years in different international sales and marketing positions at Saft for Railway, Traction and Stationary markets. His current responsibilities cover strategic and operational marketing for Industrial Battery Markets, in particular market and product development for Renewable Energies and Smart Grids.

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