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Exploring ways of supplying clean flexibility to the grid – interview with Péter Horváth, CEO, Dunamenti power plant

Earlier in September, European integrated energy company MET Group was the first company in Hungary to install a Tesla Megapack energy storage system on-site at the Dunamenti power plant, to support the shift from fossil fuels to renewables.

CEENERGYNEWS spoke with Péter Horváth, the CEO of the Dunamenti power plant, about the significance of this instalment for both the company and the country and what’s next in terms of electricity storage capacities. 

“Being only a 4 megawatts (MW) project, it is the first arrival of a technology that could have an exponential impact later on in the energy system of Hungary,” Mr Horváth begins.

He recalls that Dunamenti operates gas-fired power plants that provide flexibility to the power system. And the higher the penetration of renewables, the more flexibility we need. 

“The current conflict and the energy crisis have made us aware that considering gas as a cheap and reliable fuel is not something we should take for granted,” says Mr Horváth. “And this goes beyond the fact that natural gas is still less carbon intensive than coal. So while keeping and continuously upgrading existing natural gas power plants online is something inevitable, building a new one is questionable.”

So, we as a power station currently in the business of operating large gas-fired power plants are actively exploring ways of supplying clean flexibility to the grid by applying technologies that are not carbon dependent.

The energy storage system consists of three Tesla MegaPack-based lithium-ion batteries with a capacity of 7.68 megawatt-hours (MWh).

Inauguration of the Tesla Megapack energy storage system at the Dunamenti Power Plant.

“What is unique is not the size but the battery technology,” explains Péter Horváth. 

Indeed, the system will be capable of discharging or charging electricity for two hours at its peak power rating, which is still first-of-its-kind in Hungary, since the energy storage practice in the country has so far been based on performance-optimised storage cycles of half an hour to a one-hour maximum. Mr Horváth underlines that exploring the battery at full capacity, it can last for 4-5000 full equivalent cycles. 

“Depending on the application, it means it can also last for 11-12 years,” he adds. “The 2-hour cycle is important because with this can plan with multiple use cases, depending on market circumstances.”

“For this, you need an aggregation engine that applies AI to optimise the portfolio in an automated way,” continues the CEO of Dunamenti power plant. “New skills will be required, to program the robots doing the continuous and repetitive optimisation 24/7. Thus, by operating an electric battery system in a virtual power plant we also embark on a digitalisation journey.”

MET Group expects a rapid rise of energy storage solutions in the electricity sector over the next decade.

“We have already learnt a lot from this pilot project,” shares Mr Horváth. “And we will continue to learn a lot more once in operation. Building a battery is a completely new challenge in Hungary like it was a few years ago building a large-scale solar plant. Today, batteries are in the same situation as solar PVs were 5-6 years ago. Everybody, engineering service providers, construction companies and the permitting authorities, they all need to learn how to work with this. That’s why this first project is crucial.” 

Following this pilot project, the company plans to install additional electricity storage capacities in the coming years.

“This technology is especially good for countries with gas power generation like Hungary where the entire flexibility is based on thermal units,” he concludes. “We see a lot of demand for new flexibility. In the short term, we are focusing on Hungary, especially on the Dunamenti power station, where were are envisaging a larger plant with a 40-MW battery with the same two-hour duration. So we are thinking already 10 times bigger.”

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