Megawatt Scale Li-ion Storage To Support PV-Diesel Plant In Bolivia

A solar PV-diesel hybrid power plant with storage will improve access to electricity in rural northern Bolivia.
Published: Wed 29 Oct 2014

Battery supplier Saft is to supply grid-scale Li-ion battery energy storage for a hybrid power plant combining a 5MW solar PV array with 16MW diesel generation in the Pando department in northern Bolivia.

The plant, believed to be the largest such hybrid plant in the world, is currently under construction by Isotron SAU, a subsidiary of Spain’s Grupo Isastur.

Li-ion storage

The storage system will comprise two of Saft’s Intensium Max 20 M Medium Power containerized Li-ion battery systems, each with a nominal storage capacity of 580kWh and 1.1MW peak power output.

The hybrid power plant will coordinate PV and diesel generation to maximize the use of the solar power to meet around half the energy demand in the department’s capital city of Cobija and neighbouring towns – which represent a total peak load of around 9MW. With a total output of 21MW, the new hybrid plant will increase the overall production of electricity in the Pando department, bringing it in line with the rest of Bolivia, which has electricity coverage of 80%.

“Saft is delighted to be working with Isastur on this prestigious project that provides an important breakthrough for our Li-ion battery technology in the South American sector, where PV is becoming an essential element within the overall energy mix,” said Ignacio Quiles, Saft sales manager & managing director Saft Baterias, Spain and South America. “The Pando hybrid scheme provides an excellent reference of how large scale PV and conventional generation can be integrated with energy storage to deliver continuous and reliable electricity supplies for remote communities where grid connections are unreliable or non-existent.”

Effective energy storage will play a critical role in the hybrid plant by ensuring system stability and smoothing out short term variations in output from the PV array.

Pando’s 37GWh demand is met exclusively by diesel generation. Besides ensuring continuity of supply for Pando, the new plant is expected to reduce fuel consumption by an estimated 20 million litres a year, saving the utility millions of dollars and reducing CO2 emissions.

Hybrid power systems market growing

The hybrid power systems market is growing rapidly, driven largely by the development of mini-grids to bring electrification to those without access in the rural areas of the world. [Engerati-Hybrid Power Systems Market is Growing]

The Pando project is being coordinated by Saft’s Spanish subsidiary, which is responsible for the Central and South American market, together with Saft do Brazil. Saft is offering a multi-year warranty for the Intensium Max systems together with preventive maintenance, with the possibility to extend the warranty up to 12 years through a maintenance contract.

The plant started generating 2MW of electricity in September, with the rest of its capacity coming online before the end of 2014.