Interview with Fabricio Protti
Managing Director, Blue Solutions Stationary Management
Why is energy storage a key challenge for the development of grids and access to electricity across the continent?
« Energy storage solutions are a real opportunity for the continent. Today in Africa, the power consumption of big cities is constantly increasing while over 600 million people still don't have access to electricity. The energy needs are enormous but, to address these challenges, the continent can now rely on the unprecedented development of renewable energies.
Thanks to cost reductions, renewable energy power plants are becoming more competitive compared to other production sources. But without storage solutions, these solutions are not complete. A solar panel will only produce energy during the daytime and a wind turbine when there is wind.
Energy storage can make up for this uneven supply of renewable energies. For example: in solar energy, batteries will store the energy surplus during the sunniest hours of the day and reinject it into the grid when it is cloudy, in the evening and at night at peak hours. This way, our customers have a complete and reliable solution that ensures a continuous power supply thanks to a solution that combines renewable energy and batteries.
Energy storage also has a major role in stabilizing the grid. The sudden power reductions and increases due to renewable energies can generate frequency changes and cause serious issues: damage to the electrical devices connected, frequent power cuts, etc. Batteries allow for a more constant production and provide the grid operator with an easy, effective solution to offset these issues. »
What are the strong points of Blue Solution's Lithium Metal Polymer battery technology?
« Bolloré Group's Lithium Metal Polymer battery is a Lithium type battery which at the current time is the energy storage solution of tomorrow.
The four main challenges for energy storage solutions are security, yield, reliability, and of course the price for a complete solution.
In terms of safety, the Lithium Metal Polymer battery is an entirely solid battery with very high thermal stability. In concrete terms, this means: no risk of fire, no risk of leakage, and no risk of gaseous emission.
In terms of yield, the Lithium Metal Polymer battery is insensitive to heat and therefore doesn't require any cooling system. In hot areas, this is a key aspect and makes the Lithium Metal Polymer stand out from among the Lithium battery family.
The Lithium Metal Polymer batteries are backed by 20 years of R&D and an investment of €3 billion by Bolloré Group to ensure an optimal reliability of its technology. This reliability is already reflected in the performance of Blue Solutions achievements across the globe, such as our electric cars and buses and our car-sharing services, which have been in operation for five years and also our many tens of operating energy storage facilities in over eight African countries. The Bolloré Group is constantly investing in its Lithium Metal Polymer technology, with over 300 researchers and engineers working every day to keep up with the constantly evolving requirements in energy storage.
Thanks to the unique features of its Lithium Metal Polymer battery, Blue Solutions is a benchmark both in terms of technical and financial performance. Ultimately in Africa, Blue Solutions benefits from the nearly 100-year-old expertise of the Bolloré Group on the continent and can therefore ensure the long-term transport and maintenance of its solutions. This is a key asset for promoting the development of local talent in these new technologies and thereby secures the future of our products for many years. »
What are the main growth prospects of this industry in Africa?
« We have identified two main growth drivers: large-scale integration of renewable energies with solar and wind power plants and the development of energy access in isolated off-grid regions.
By adding batteries to large capacity renewable energy power plants connected to the grid, Blue Solutions provides national electrical grid operators with a solution that helps include renewable energies in the grids.
However, at present Africa can already shift to the electrical grid infrastructure of tomorrow thanks to decentralized renewable energy production facilities located next to end-users. To this end, Blue Solutions offers turnkey storage solutions, combined with a solar production power plant and a smart operating system to supply a village or a living area. These systems are currently being rolled out in Guinea as part of a rural electrification plan. In addition, Blue Solutions ensures the electricity supply of Canal Olympia, Africa's leading chain of event venues and movie theaters developed by the Vivendi Group.
Thanks to its hybrid solutions, Blue Solutions also helps industries drive their energy transition. Associating renewable energy and storage enables them to dramatically reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
Lastly, Blue Solutions is involved in upstream studies, which will enable the validation of other services that batteries will be able to provide in Africa in the medium term. Elsewhere in the world, storage facilities have already been set up for some of these services, such as the implementation of storage capacities at strategic points on the grid to avoid costly investments for example. »