The ability to store energy will be crucial for renewable energy sources to flourish and become a major source of energy. As the industry matures, affordable storage will increasing become an important obstacle to overcome.
This is why:
Not all watts are created equal. During peak demand on the electric grid, electric companies will pay more for electricity. The opposite is true during times of low demand. Solar energy tends to correspond with these price fluctuations by generating large amounts of electricity during times of peak demand.
This is because air conditioning loads are largely responsible for increased electric demand. People tend to crank up the a.c. when the sun it out. Wind energy and other renewable energy sources however don’t necessarily correspond as closely.
Renewable energy facilities tend to have large upfront costs, but lower operating costs. They require more infrastructure, but do not require fuel to power the plant. The shorter the payback period of a proposed renewable energy project, the easier it is to find investors and move ahead with construction. Being able to provide the grid with electricity during peak times allows the project to be more lucrative and storage is a great way to do that.
Increasing Energy Autonomy
In an ideal world, each region of the country would have affordable and reliable clean energy sources. The reality is that some regions have outstanding geothermal resources, while others are a hot bed for solar energy. There are times when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow and energy storage helps make each region more autonomous and not rely on long distance power transmission as much.
This also reduces the need for a large national power grid for renewable energy to flourish. That way, North Dakota for example can use large amounts of wind energy and Arizona can use a lot of solar energy.
Stabilizing the Electric Grid
The grid needs a consistent, stable supply of energy that can be adjusted during times of peak demand. Brown outs occur when supply does not keep up with demand, like what we have seen in California. High demand on the power grid often requires oil and natural gas power plants to be fired up to cover short-term electricity demand at a higher price.
Large-scale use of renewable energy will require that it can adapt to variable levels of demand on the power grid. Energy storage allows that electricity output from renewable sources can be cranked up as needed instead of firing up a natural gas or oil power plants.
Promising Energy Storage Technologies
–Compressed Air Energy Storage for Wind Energy
–Solar Thermal Energy Storage
Related Posts on Renewable Energy Storage:
Solar Thermal Electricity: Can it Replace Coal, Gas, and Oil?
Storing Wind Energy Underground
Photo Credit: Compliments of Ausra