A huge battery fleet is coming to the Philippines

Fluence is delivering 470 megawatts of grid batteries to bolster grid stability in just over a year’s time.
By Julian Spector

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One of the biggest grid battery fleets in the world is heading to the Philippines.

SMC Global Power Holdings, the country’s largest power producer, has begun installing a battery portfolio of 470 megawatts/​470 megawatt-hours from Fluence, the joint venture of AES and Siemens. That capacity will be spread over 13 sites using a standard building block of increments of 20 megawatts/​20 megawatt-hours.

The first two projects have already completed commissioning, and the full fleet will be operational by the end of July 2022, the companies said Tuesday.

But that’s just part of SMC’s broader buildout targeting 1 gigawatt of energy storage. SMC also contracted with European companies ABB and Wärtsilä for that effort. ABB is delivering three battery systems now with more to come next year, and Wärtsilä completed two projects as part of a 100-megawatt/100-megawatt-hour contract, Energy Storage News reported.

The batteries will manage the grid’s frequency, voltage and reactive power supply. Those tasks deal with the moment-by-moment maintenance of grid stability, rather than bulk storage or peak power delivery.

Frequency regulation tends to be the first point of entry for large-scale grid batteries in a given country because it’s a task at which batteries can easily distinguish themselves.

Our systems can respond in the sub-second range, whereas conventional generation can take anywhere between five and 30 minutes to respond to and correct grid instability,” Don Lee, Fluence’s general manager for the Philippines, said in an email.

In the Philippines, coal power plants still supply nearly half of the electricity mix, followed by natural gas. Wind and solar have a negligible presence, but more robust hydropower and geothermal resources make the overall renewables contribution comparable to natural gas.

International Energy Agency data reveal coal's continued dominance on the Philippines' grid.

Shifting grid stability tasks from fossil-fueled plants to batteries reduces carbon emissions, Lee said. Fossil plants operate inefficiently when providing ancillary services. Batteries free those plants to generate electricity more efficiently, which lowers carbon-intensity.

Furthermore, the Philippines’ national grid is evolving. The country’s Department of Energy has decided to stop awarding new permits for coal plants, Lee said. The government wants to add 20 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity by 2040. The batteries, scattered at strategic locations across the country, are intended to get out in front of that energy transition.

The Philippines is a country of 7,700 islands with a large network of undersea transmission cables, which create areas of line congestion, particularly for new renewable generation,” Lee said. 

Building in smaller increments makes it possible to locate the batteries closer to electricity demand, rather than building extra-large batteries in more remote locations, he added.

The scale of grid battery construction has accelerated in recent years as surging renewables, with their intermittent production schedules, put a premium on flexibility.

Texas-based Vistra Energy completed the current world’s largest battery earlier this year at Moss Landing, south of Santa Cruz, California. That facility can discharge 300 megawatts for four hours straight, which allows it to deliver power in place of gas plants for the highest demand hours of the state’s infamous evening peaks.

Battery portfolios are harder to compare than individual projects, because they can span different amounts of space and time. But the Philippines’ portfolio certainly stands out for its scope and the speed of delivery. It represents a significant acceleration for energy storage activities in the country, which kicked off in 2016 when Fluence supplied SMC with a 10-megawatt battery.

Article image courtesy of Fluence.

Julian Spector is senior reporter at Canary Media.