Interview : Kokam’s ESS Projects in South Korea

2018. 12. 19

Interview: Kokam’s ESS Projects in South Korea

Ike Hong, Vice President, Power Solutions Division, Kokam


Founded as a company specialized in Lithium ion polymer batteries in 1989, Kokam Co., Ltd. has become an expert for reliable, safe, high performance and eco-friendly battery solutions. Since its inception the company has focused on battery solutions for customers from different fields like aerospace, EV, military or marine clients. Over 50 countries have been able to profit from Kokam’s 708MWh of field performance, utilizing over 60 battery-related patents. ees International talked to Ike Hong, vice president of Kokam’s Power Solutions Division, about the company’s new projects in South Korea and the country’s future plans for integrating renewable energies into the region’s energy supply.

ees International: Future technologies will drive the use of renewable energies forward. What are the South Korean Government’s plans for this mission and what steps have already been taken?

Advanced energy storage, PV, wind power and other energy technologies are helping accelerate the growth of renewable energy in South Korea, enabling the country to meet its clean energy goals in a safe and affordable manner. Kokam is helping lead this effort, with its innovative technology installed in these two new PV-connected ESS installations, totalling 40 MWh of capacity that feature some of Kokam’s latest battery technology innovations. With the introduction of the Renewable Energy 3020 plan in December 2017, the South Korean government is taking additional steps to encourage the adoption of renewable energy in order to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix from 7 percent in 2016 to 20 percent by 2030. South Korea is already seeing results from this new plan. According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) 665 megawatts (MW) of PV, 72 MW of wind power and 693MWh of other renewable energy resources were installed in South Korea from the start of January 2018 through May. These projects almost doubled the country’s renewable energy capacity in a single year. Today, there are 134 new utility scale renewable energy projects in the development or planning stage in the country, representing 24.9 gigawatts (GW) of new PV and wind power capacity. These planned projects include Korea’s first offshore PV power plant in South Korea’s Gunsan region. When finished, this offshore PV power plant will have 18.7 MW of capacity. As part of its Renewable Energy 3020 plan, South Korea is also incentivizing the installation of Energy Storage Systems (ESSs) with PV and wind power systems, in order to help address the intermittent energy generation of renewable resources. For example, ESSs increase the value of the energy generated by these renewable energy systems by storing the energy generated when energy supply is high or demand is low, and then discharging this energy later in the day when energy supply is low or demand is high. In addition, ESSs can perform ramp rate control, stabilizing the amount of energy delivered by these systems to the grid during the day. These and similar ancillary services performed by ESSs help maintain grid stability. ees International: There are lots of problems with the use and storage of renewable energy. What kind of innovation is the most helpful for facing those challenges? Innovative solutions in ESSs can help with the use and storage of renewable energy. This is one of the reasons for the recent growth of South Korea’s energy storage market. The South Korean Ministry of Trade Industry and Energy reports that in just the first half of 2018 a total of 1.8 gigawatt hours (GWh) of ESS capacity was installed in South Korea, while a total of 763 megawatt hours (MWh) of ESS capacity was installed in 2017. This growth continues – investment firm Mirae Asset Daewoo estimates that a total of 4.7 GWh of ESS capacity will be installed in 2018, and this amount will increase in in 2019. A large percent of this ESS capacity, including the two recent South Korean 40MWh ESS projects won by Kokam, is designed to store large amounts of energy generated by PV or wind power systems for long durations. This is where innovations, like those of Kokam, that increase the battery energy density, safety, and cycle life used in ESSs can be particularly valuable in supporting the growth of renewable energy. Energy density is important in that larger ESSs increase project cost. With improved battery energy density, project developers can store the same amount or more energy with a smaller footprint, increasing the ROI of their projects. Safety is important because fires or other ESS accidents have a significant negative impact on financials and reputation on ESS projects, and can even threaten the health of workers at the project. By integrating advanced Battery Management Systems (BMS), a Battery Protection Units (BPU), and firefighting systems into its ESSs, Kokam improves the safety of these systems, significantly reducing the probability of a fire or other types of concerns. Finally, longer battery cycle life lengthens the expected lifetime of ESS projects, increasing their ROI and making their use more attractive to renewable energy project developers and owners.  

Chungchoeng-Kokam-ESS-Photo-770x375Inside of an ESS at the 13 MWh Chungchoeng project | Source: Kokam

  ees International: Kokam has won two projects totalling 40 MWh of PV-connected energy storage system capacity in South Korea. What influence will those projects have on the future of renewable energy in East Asia? We think that these types of ESS projects with innovative battery technologies, often originally designed for aerospace, marine, or other applications, can influence East Asian renewable project developers to look at these types of technologies for ESSs connected to wind power and PV projects. This is because aerospace and marine applications demand extremely safe batteries, and these same battery technologies can then be used to improve the safety and reliability of ESSs. In addition, space is extremely limited in drones, submarines, and similar vehicles, which have led to the development of technologies that increase the energy density of batteries. Now, these space-saving technologies are used for wind and PV-connected ESSs, especially in countries like South Korea, where land is very expensive and project footprints need to be minimized as much as possible. ees International: Kokam is known for its High Energy Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (HE NMC) battery technology. What are the benefits of this type of battery? The main advantage of Kokam’s new HE NMC battery technology, which was featured in the 100Ah HE NMC Cells used in some of the ESSs for the 28 MWh Korea Midland Power Co., Ltd. Project, is its high energy density. A new active material in the anode and a new additive to the cell’s electrolyte increases the cell’s energy density by 26% compared to previous Kokam HE NMC cells, to 204.4 watt hours per kilogram (Wh/kg), without reducing its life expectancy. This higher energy density benefits renewable energy project developers and owners by helping them lower the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) and increase the ROI for ESSs used to support PV and wind systems. ees International: One of the most important aspects of different kinds of energy storage is safety. How does Kokam’s technology make the company’s planned projects even safer? Kokam’s ESSs feature three levels of protection, with a Battery Management System (BMS), a Battery Protection Unit (BPU) and a firefighting systems. In addition, all Kokam battery modules use flame retardant material, further increasing the safety of the ESS. ees International: The company has already successfully installed 200 MW of its battery technology around the world, what are future projects for Kokam? If the current trend continues, we would expect to see future projects similar to the multiple projects Kokam won this year in both PV-connected ESS projects and industrial energy storage projects. Just this past year a large lithium ion battery project was deployed for an industrial application in Australia. This ESS project features Kokam’s high power Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) Oxide battery technology, which improves the performance of an islanded high voltage network. Another market for Kokam is Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) projects, which can use our new K-UPS series of high power UPS battery racks. Featuring Kokam’s Ultra High Power Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (UHP NMC) battery technology, these new battery racks enable UPS system providers to meet growing data center demand for lithium-ion UPS systems that can deliver high power for a short period of time at a lower cost than UPS systems using lead-acid batteries. In 2018, 40 MWh of Kokam’s battery racks were commissioned for UPS applications.  

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