Efficient energy storage systems – the backbone of the energy transition

In order to meet climate goals, the world is accelerating the expansion of CO2-neutral, renewable energies and driving decarbonization of the economy and society. This development is changing everything about how we as humans generate, transmit and consume energy. The characteristics of renewables require us to rethink the question of energy supply: First, the energy generated from renewables fluctuates depending on the weather and the season. Second, solar and wind energy generation necessitate increasingly decentralized power grids, which have to intelligently integrate a wide range of energy producers, ranging from large-scale off-shore wind farms to small solar installations at residential buildings. This is why a digitalized, high-performance energy infrastructure that can deal with the special characteristics of solar and wind is a prerequisite for the successful shift toward renewables. The need for such an infrastructure makes modern and efficient energy storage systems more relevant than ever. These storage systems help compensate for fluctuations, keep power grids in balance and avoid unnecessary energy waste. In 2030, market experts expect annual energy storage installations to reach a capacity of more than 30 GW worldwide.

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The shift to renewable energies is making the efficient storage of energy - so that it can be used when needed - more urgent than ever. History shows that mankind has always sought creative solutions to this issue. Weight accumulators, for example, were a common form of storing mechanical energy for a long time, for example to keep clockworks in church towers running for days or even weeks. For centuries, people experimented with mechanical solutions like flywheels, compressed air and electrochemical principles which finally led to batteries. For a long time hydroelectric power and pumped-storage power plants were the only technologies available for storing energy on a large scale and over long periods of time or balancing day and night. Now, two more technologies are coming into play: In addition to high-performance battery systems, green hydrogen is predicted to have a great future, mainly because hydrogen can be stored in large quantities and can be transported and made available flexibly. And there is another aspect: Portable energy storage devices are becoming more and more important. They can be used as a power source for outdoor activities like camping or as an emergency backup in case of a grid outage.

Balancing energy supply and demand

From a utility perspective, the value of energy storage systems is to increase grid reliability and stability, balance capacity constraints during energy transmission and manage weather-related supply and demand fluctuations. Specifically, energy storage systems provide a solution in the face of uncertain circumstances such as power outages, natural disasters or technical problems and deliver energy when other sources are unavailable. During transmission, capacity constraints can be critical when demand increases heavily at the same time. Here energy storage systems provide an option to stretch the energy needed during peak periods, bridging the time when there is no sun or wind and balancing the mismatch between supply and demand. Looking at commercial and residential buildings, for example offices or homes that already have a photovoltaic system on the roof, the energy can be stored during the day to be used at night or fed into the grid. Finally, the acceptance of electric vehicles also depends on their capacity to store energy efficiently in batteries. Electric vehicles rely on low-cost, high-density, and reliable battery storage and can ultimately become part of a smart grid themselves. This means that the battery in the vehicle can also be used to feed the energy stored back into the grid or to a building.

Semiconductors provide stability in highly complex distributed networks

The power grid is evolving from one-way power flow from the power plant to the industrial and consumer sectors to a highly complex distributed network. That’s why mobile and stationary energy storage systems made possible by semiconductor technologies are becoming an essential part of the entire energy supply chain. Semiconductors provide a wide array of technological approaches letting energy storage systems manage the supply-demand situation driven by the shift to renewable sources. State-of-the-art semiconductor technologies are needed everywhere, whether for efficient energy conversion at various points in the energy supply chain or for battery management to make the most out of storage. Since potentially every point where electricity is produced and consumed can become an active, intelligent node in the system, energy efficiency enabled by Infineon semiconductors is crucial at all interfaces.

Application page: Power transmission and distribution

Application page: Battery management system

Defining Energy Storage Systems: Power conversion and battery management

Two main capabilities made possible by semiconductors characterize energy storage systems: energy-efficient power conversion and the battery management system. The power conversion system (PCS) handles AC/DC and DC/AC conversion, with energy flowing into the batteries to charge them or being converted from the battery storage into AC power and fed into the grid. The energy-efficiency of this power conversion process depends heavily on semiconductor technologies.

However, when it comes to energy storage, it’s equally important to manage the battery safely and efficiently. For this reason, the battery management system (BMS) is a key component of energy storage systems. Based on dedicated ICs and complemented by a microcontroller that handles system control and communication the BMS is responsible for cell protection, charging and discharging, cell balancing, power optimization, and health assessment.

Our goal is to drive sustainability in this area by developing solutions to get as much as possible out of used batteries as well. Infineon therefore supports battery management approaches that give old batteries a second life with the help of semiconductor technologies.

Application page: Energy storage systems

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Broad Infineon portfolio for energy storage solutions

Infineon’s semiconductor solutions support the development of energy storage systems. Our unique expertise in energy generation, power transmission, conversion of power and battery management makes us the natural partner for advancing Energy Storage Solutions (ESS) in terms of efficiency, innovation, performance and optimum cost.

Infineon offers the market-leading products which are ideal in a wide range of energy storage system designs for both discrete and module solutions. For example, the latest generation of wide-bandgap semiconductors like CoolSiC™ MOSFETs enable a significant power conversion efficiency increase of up to 50 % in solar power generation systems and associated energy storage. CoolSiC™ helps reduce energy losses, which means extra energy. A change from super-junction MOSFETs to CoolSiC™ MOSFETs in the battery bank can lead to approx. 2% extra energy without increasing battery size.

Power conversion:

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