Energy storage has been used for almost a hundred years in one form or another, but it has much further to go and is critical to long-term energy efficiency. As the technology improves, energy storage has become an attractive concept in the age of carbon reduction— but this is a complex topic, and many of us have only grasped the essential concepts of energy storage.
To help educate others about energy storage, our allies at ClearPath wrote this helpful primer earlier this year to catch us up to speed.
Due to energy storage’s impending importance in the national clean energy conversation, we’d like to provide a few highlights from ClearPath’s article, starting with where energy storage tech comes into play in the grid.
First, it is necessary to understand that the grid’s functions can be divided into
- transmission, and
- distribution—and energy storage is important in all of them.
Consumers’ electricity needs rise and fall with every hour of every day, so utilities are always engaged in an ever-changing system of supply and demand.
Energy storage can be used to stockpile electricity during times of day when energy consumption is low, so that it can offset the surge of demand during peak hours of use. ClearPath’s article uses a great analogy, “In the simplest terms, energy generation controls time, from when and how we use it.”
In terms of the grid, transmission means carrying the generated electricity where it needs to go before it can be distributed. This function of the grid can benefit from energy storage by using the technology to ease congestion and increase stabilization.
After the electricity has been transmitted, it is converted to a lower voltage for consumer use – this is the distribution function of the grid. Blackouts can occur during distribution, and with energy storage applications in place, outages can be counteracted with reserved electricity using energy storage techniques.
When we talk about energy storage, we are really talking about a collection of technologies that can be used to that end. Chemical, mechanical, thermal, and kinetic energies are all important in energy storage, and ClearPath’s article touches on each of them, as well as examples of what they offer.
Various types of batteries are commonly used in energy storage, with Lithium Ion batteries being one of the most prominent technologies in recent years. Lithium Ion batteries have been the preferred method of energy storage for many due to the technology’s benefits, including high energy density, low cost, long lifetimes, recharge ability, low maintenance, and high rate discharge capability.
Energy storage has found support at the federal level as well. In February of 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted to “remove barriers to the participation of electric storage resources in the capacity, energy and ancillary services markets operated by Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators.”
We are seeing more and more legislation come to light around energy storage, and conversation around its use, transmission, and its place among other low carbon energy sources like wind and solar. Energy storage is a great method to consider when looking at ways to reduce emissions.