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Clean Energy Storage: Unlocking Power Grid Efficiency and Reliability

3 min. read

Energy storage is a central, even crucial, component in the transition to a clean energy economy.

As PV magazine states in a recent article:

“Our electric grid is often called the largest machine in the world – specifically the Eastern and Midwest interconnected power grid. This machine touches every one of us. And residential customers have explicitly and overwhelmingly expressed a demand for energy storage in their homes. Meanwhile, the hard reality is that if we’re going to power our country with clean electricity from intermittent sources like the sun and wind – we’re going to need energy storage in massive amounts. The Energy Storage Association has given us a short term map to move towards this end-game.”

The reference to the Energy Storage Association (ESA) refers to their white paper, 35X25: A Vision for Energy Storage. The executive summary of that report clearly lays out what’s at stake, with the U.S. power sector “in the midst of profound transformation,” where the roles of both power producers and consumers are shifting rapidly. According to the ESA, advancements in energy storage will accommodate this shift and create opportunities for more than 35 gigawatts (GW) of new energy storage systems by 2025 in the U.S.

What Will 35 GW Of Clean Energy Storage Mean By 2025 For The U.S. Power Grid? 

Many things, including:

Reducing “Curtailment” of Wind, Solar and Hydropower

Curtailment – the deliberate wasting of clean energy – occurs because our outdated grid isn’t equipped to handle the ebbs and flows of intermittent energy sources. As Soluna Computing (a client) has discovered, up to 30% of the power generated by solar or wind farms can go to waste annually. We need more energy storage options to cut the amount of energy that’s curtailed. Bonus: Wind and solar farm owners avoid lost revenues that come from curtailed energy. 

Eliminating Power Grid Disruptions

Our outdated grid is already vulnerable to disruptions, and even minor blips can cause millions of dollars in damage and affect millions of people. Renewable energy storage eliminates the need for idling and is much more efficient and quick – not to mention less polluting – than restarting the last resort of fossil fuel plants waiting on standby. 

Improving Power Grid Efficiency, Sustainability, and Affordability

Energy storage tech has been called by some "the 'Swiss army knife' of the power grid, capable of doing many things for many stakeholders." We’ve previously published a post on several reports that highlight the benefits of increased energy storage – you can read it here

Increasing Cost Advantage of Renewable Energy

Electricity from renewables is already cheaper than that from fossil fuels. With the increased demand for renewables comes a new host of considerations for companies, such as grid resiliency and security; accurate and nimble energy monitoring software; volatility against price surges; and protection against future carbon pollution policies. Energy storage tech can help address many of these concerns. 

The integration of “large amounts of intermittent generation and distributed generation” also enables continued growth in renewable energy, leading to overall lower costs of energy sources like solar and wind. 

Reducing CO2 Emissions

Maximizing renewable energy improves the efficiency of conventional grid generation, significantly reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, the addition of energy storage will allow us to finally phase out coal and, eventually, oil and natural gas plants. I think this graph from the report sums it up nicely. 

 

Image source: The Energy Storage Association’s report: “35x25: A Vision for Energy Storage.”

Advanced Clean Energy Storage Through A Cleaner, Efficient, Cost-Effective, And Reliable Power Grid

Where can we expect to see the most growth in energy storage through 2025? According to ESA, the Southwest and Hawaii will account for about 34% of cumulative U.S. energy storage capacity additions through 2025, with the Northeast accounting for 28%, the Southeast for 19%, the Central and Midwest region for 13% and the Northwest for 6%.

The end result of all this? A cleaner, more efficient, more cost-effective, more reliable power grid.

Topics: Clean Economy