Farming and agricultural activities are energy-intensive operations with fluctuating demands that can challenge even the most resilient power grids. Over the past few years, energy storage systems (ESS) have emerged as critical solutions for ensuring stable, reliable, and continuous energy supplies for farms. These systems allow for greater control over electricity use, mitigating the unpredictability of farm operations.
7 problems that energy storage overcomes on farms
(1) Irregular energy consumption (peaks and troughs)
Farm operations can swing from low to high energy use rapidly, often with planting, harvesting, and processing activities. Energy storage systems act as a buffer, providing power during high-demand periods and conserving energy when demands are minimal.
(2) Intermittency of renewable energy sources
With an increasing trend towards sustainable farming, harnessing solar and wind power has become more prevalent. However, the inconsistent nature of these sources can result in energy being unavailable when most needed. Energy storage systems are critical for capturing this renewable energy ensuring it’s accessible whenever required, thus making renewable integration more practical and efficient.
(3) Vulnerability to power outages
The repercussions of power outages in farming are significant, affecting irrigation, livestock welfare, and climate-controlled environments for produce. Energy storage offers a rapid response, filling the gap immediately when disruptions occur, preventing the potentially severe consequences of power interruptions.
(4) Limitations of rural grid infrastructure
Grid limitations in rural settings can pose significant issues during periods of high energy demand, leading to unstable power delivery. Energy storage systems offer a localised answer to these challenges, providing a stable energy supply without overburdening the grid infrastructure.
(5) High energy costs during peak demand
Energy costs can be a substantial part of a farm’s operating expenses, particularly during peak usage times. By utilising energy storage, farms can take advantage of off-peak rates by storing energy when it’s cheaper and using it during peak hours, leading to considerable cost savings.
(6) Dependence on external energy supplies
By adopting energy storage, farms can reduce their reliance on external energy sources, enhancing their self-sufficiency. This is particularly advantageous for remote farms that may not have reliable access to the grid or are subject to high energy prices.
(7) Low smart farming adoption
As agriculture evolves, so does the need for smart farming technologies that rely on a constant energy supply. Energy storage systems can power an array of sensors and automated systems that optimise farm operations, making them an integral part of the modern smart farm infrastructure.
Farm energy storage technologies
The UK’s agricultural sector has unique energy needs, and with the advancement of technology, the following three energy storage solutions have become popular among farms, each with their own key benefits that are suitable for different farming environments.
Battery storage (lithium-ion)
Batteries, particularly lithium-ion types, have become increasingly popular due to their efficiency and longevity. They are particularly suited for farms looking to store energy from solar panels or wind turbines.
Their fast response times and high energy density make them ideal for managing daily energy fluctuations, offering a reliable backup for critical operations. Furthermore, lithium-ion batteries have a decreasing cost trend, making them a more accessible option for farmers.
Pumped hydro storage
For farms situated on terrain with water bodies or significant elevation differences, pumped hydro storage can be an effective solution. During periods of low energy demand or excess production (e.g., from solar panels during sunny days), water is pumped to a higher elevation reservoir.
When energy is needed, particularly during peak demand, the stored water is released to flow downhill, turning turbines to generate electricity. This system is well-suited for larger farms with appropriate geographical features, offering a sustainable and large-scale energy storage option.
Thermal energy storage
Thermal energy storage systems are highly beneficial for farms that require climate control, such as those with greenhouses or refrigerated storage facilities. These systems store energy in the form of heat or cold, which can be used to maintain optimal temperatures.
For instance, solar heat captured during the day can be stored and used to keep greenhouses warm at night, or excess electrical energy can be used to create ice during off-peak hours, which then cools facilities during the day. This method of storage helps in managing energy demands and can significantly reduce reliance on external energy sources.
Benefits of investing in energy storage for your farm
Investing in energy storage systems on a farm can lead to significant economic and environmental advantages. Here are the three key benefits farm owners cite that energy storage gives their businesses.
Significant long-term cost savings
One of the most compelling benefits of installing energy storage is the potential for substantial cost savings. By storing excess energy (particularly from renewable sources like solar panels) farms can minimise their reliance on grid electricity. This stored energy can then be used during peak demand times when electricity prices are at their highest, avoiding costly energy charges.
Decreasing the farm’s carbon footprint
Energy storage enhances a farm’s sustainability by optimising the use of renewable energy. It enables farms to store energy when production from sources like wind or solar is high but demand is low. This energy can later be used to reduce the need for fossil fuel-based power, thereby decreasing the farm’s carbon footprint.
Creating an additional revenue stream
Energy storage systems allow for what’s called ‘day-ahead optimisation.’ – but only with an Energy Management System (which is essentially an optimisation engine) like Podium. This involves charging the batteries when the energy prices are lowest, sometimes even when wholesale prices go negative, meaning the grid actually pays for energy consumption. Later on, the stored energy can be used or sold back to the grid when the prices are higher.
Selecting the best energy storage supplier for your farm
In the process of selecting an energy storage supplier, there are critical factors to consider to ensure that the investment pays off for your agricultural operations:
They conduct a tailored energy assessment
Choose a provider that offers a detailed evaluation of your farm’s unique energy patterns and needs. This will ensure that the system they propose will align perfectly with both your current demands and future growth.
They provide financial partnership support
Opt for a supplier who presents a clear cost-benefit analysis, demonstrating the potential for long-term energy cost savings and a favorable return on investment. The right supplier should help you navigate through budget considerations to build a strong business case.
They deliver smart scalable storage solutions
It’s essential to work with a supplier that can offer scalable energy storage systems. As your farming operations expand, your system should be able to accommodate increased energy needs without requiring a complete overhaul.
Example of a successful farm energy storage project
Suttons Farm consists of numerous buildings for both agricultural and residential use. Whilst the forward-thinking site owner was making a significant investment in decarbonised heating, the daily import was in excess of 100 kWh, until Wattstor implemented its unique energy management system and battery energy storage solution.
Wattstor’s Energy Management System, Podium, was installed at Suttons Farm ahead of any other assets. This allowed us to monitor the consumption of power at sub-distribution board level with exceptional accuracy. With this real and accurate data, Wattstor were able to specify an integrated solar storage system in which output power, storage capacity and generation could each be separately tailored to the farm’s requirements.
Speak to a Farm Energy Storage specialist
Get in touch with Wattstor’s specialist team on [email protected]. Our energy experts can evaluate your site requirements and discuss how energy storage systems can support your business thriving.
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Head of Sales, UK & Ireland
Jack Peck has over a decade’s experience in the renewable energy sector. Starting out as a solar developer, he has spent the past five years bringing battery storage solutions to market and now heads up Wattstor's sales team in the UK.