Energy storage is an increasingly important tool for improving the efficiency of power distribution networks and transportation options. While energy generation is fixed to our means to create it, the demand can fluctuate wildly. Energy storage provides a means to meet the demand and flatten out the need to rapidly generate power on demand.
Utilities Explore Local Storage
Generating power on demand requires a rapid spike in power generation, and the systems in place to meet the quick demand are our least efficient and most expensive options. Using gas-powered generators at an electric utility to quickly meet the demands of users is a much more expensive and wasteful option than simply having energy stored on the grid locally for quick response to that demand.
The Department of Energy has several projects underway to study the effectiveness and efficiency of local energy storage. Utilities are exploring various battery technologies as well as flywheels, supercapacitors, and compressed air or energy stored in water towers to meet storage demands. In each of these technology solutions the storage device is meant to store energy when generation exceeds load, and to discharge energy when loads exceed generation capacity.
Instead of trying to constantly adjust energy generation, storage has proven to be technically viable, cost-effective and an applicable solution to increase the reliability and efficiency of electrical systems. Increasingly, utilities are investing in energy storage as well as smart grid solutions as the investments have a high and almost immediate return by leveling off the need to quickly meet power demands.
Charge for Better Batteries
There are a great deal of research and development dollars going into the discovery of better battery technologies for electric vehicles. The interest to create more efficient storage systems for lighter and longer lasting batteries for electric cars will translate into better batteries for other purposes, including local storage.
Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power are reliant on intermittent energy sources. In order for these sources to work well when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining they need to incorporate reliable energy storage.
Energy storage is an increasingly important element for more efficient energy transmission and distribution. Research into more efficient means to store energy will result in more efficient and affordable systems, including making renewable and clean energy solutions much more viable.