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Published on August 21st, 2008 | by Sarah Lozanova

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Renewable Energy: How Storage Can Make it Cheaper & More Reliable

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August 21st, 2008 by
 
coal power nuclearFor renewable energy to be competitive with coal, natural gas, nuclear, and oil, it needs to be cost effective and reliable. Energy storage is key to achieving this.

Here’s why:

Lower Cost of Renewable Energy

High prices are one of the largest barriers facing renewables. Storage can help overcome this because not all watts are created equal. During peak demand on the electric grid, electric companies will pay more for electricity. Often the additional power needs at this time are supplied by natural gas or oil, which have higher fuel costs, yet can produce electricity at a moment’s notice. The opposite is true during times of low demand, when electricity costs are lower. 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. Storage will allow these energy sources to be fed to the grid during the most lucrative times.

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 heavily on long distance power transmission.

Energy storage reduces the need for a extensive 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.

Reliable Energy Supply

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 Renewable Energy Storage Technologies

Related articles on renewable energy:

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About the Author

is passionate about the new green economy and renewable energy. Sarah's experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative. When she can escape the internet vortex, she enjoys playing in the forest, paddling down rivers, or twisting into yoga poses.



  • Charlie P

    You are all missing the solution that is already here – Vanadium Redox Batteries. Check out what is going on with Vanadium and get back to me.

    Charlie

  • Charlie P

    You are all missing the solution that is already here – Vanadium Redox Batteries. Check out what is going on with Vanadium and get back to me.

    Charlie

  • rick

    Mike and CT; water and other weight gravity energy storage systems simply don’t have a big enough storage capacity. They can be used in certain very limited situations, e.g. small mountain generating station with a huge, high lake next door, but otherwise you would have to flood Alabama to store enough energy to power New Orleans for a week.

  • rick

    Mike and CT; water and other weight gravity energy storage systems simply don’t have a big enough storage capacity. They can be used in certain very limited situations, e.g. small mountain generating station with a huge, high lake next door, but otherwise you would have to flood Alabama to store enough energy to power New Orleans for a week.

  • CT Davis

    How about storing energy by dangling a large weight over a deep hole, winching it up with excess energy and letting it drop slowly to turn a generator, when needed? Very low-tech, yes, but also low price, high efficiency, very short development, and the stored energy will stay stored virtually forever. This can be constructed pretty much anywhere, requires much less space than the pumping water solution. It’s only limited by the amount of weight you can suspend.

  • CT Davis

    How about storing energy by dangling a large weight over a deep hole, winching it up with excess energy and letting it drop slowly to turn a generator, when needed? Very low-tech, yes, but also low price, high efficiency, very short development, and the stored energy will stay stored virtually forever. This can be constructed pretty much anywhere, requires much less space than the pumping water solution. It’s only limited by the amount of weight you can suspend.

  • CT Davis

    How about storing energy by dangling a large weight over a deep hole, winching it up with excess energy and letting it drop slowly to turn a generator, when needed? Very low-tech, yes, but also low price, high efficiency, very short development, and the stored energy will stay stored virtually forever. This can be constructed pretty much anywhere, requires much less space than the pumping water solution. It’s only limited by the amount of weight you can suspend.

  • Pingback: Storage Key to Widespread, Affordable Renewable Electricity

  • Sarah Lozanova

    Van,

    Vandium Redox batteries do have potential, but their volume to energy ratio isn’t that great. Do you know how cost effective they are?

  • Sarah Lozanova

    Van,

    Vandium Redox batteries do have potential, but their volume to energy ratio isn’t that great. Do you know how cost effective they are?

  • Van Redox

    How about Vanadium Redox batteries? 87% efficient, do not discharge, being tested successfully in US (St Peterburg) Ireland.

  • Van Redox

    How about Vanadium Redox batteries? 87% efficient, do not discharge, being tested successfully in US (St Peterburg) Ireland.

  • Pingback: Storage Key to Widespread, Affordable Renewable Electricity - The Environment Site Forums

  • David Barnes

    Another ‘promising renewable energy storage technique’ is SMES, superconducting energy magnetic storage. The technology has already been developed.

  • David Barnes

    Another ‘promising renewable energy storage technique’ is SMES, superconducting energy magnetic storage. The technology has already been developed.

  • al morgan

    Storage with/without renewables would make someone very, very, very rich. All current forms of storage are deplorably inefficient…you are lucky to get 60% back out from the energy you put into them to “store”. That by the way, is why cell phones are intrinsically energy wastefull…as are ev’s. If you could get 90% out of what you “store” you’d be making battery EV’s twice as cheap!

  • al morgan

    Storage with/without renewables would make someone very, very, very rich. All current forms of storage are deplorably inefficient…you are lucky to get 60% back out from the energy you put into them to “store”. That by the way, is why cell phones are intrinsically energy wastefull…as are ev’s. If you could get 90% out of what you “store” you’d be making battery EV’s twice as cheap!

  • al morgan

    Storage with/without renewables would make someone very, very, very rich. All current forms of storage are deplorably inefficient…you are lucky to get 60% back out from the energy you put into them to “store”. That by the way, is why cell phones are intrinsically energy wastefull…as are ev’s. If you could get 90% out of what you “store” you’d be making battery EV’s twice as cheap!

  • Mike

    I watched a video about a german company (i think?) that took the excess power produced by wind turbines and pumped large volumes of water from one basin to another basin at a higher altitude. When the turbines weren’t producing enough power, the water from the higher tank was released through generators into the lower tank producing more electricity. I don’t know why this hasn’t caught on yet, it’s simple and requires no exotic chemicals or designs.

  • Mike

    I watched a video about a german company (i think?) that took the excess power produced by wind turbines and pumped large volumes of water from one basin to another basin at a higher altitude. When the turbines weren’t producing enough power, the water from the higher tank was released through generators into the lower tank producing more electricity. I don’t know why this hasn’t caught on yet, it’s simple and requires no exotic chemicals or designs.

  • http://www.sequence-omega.net Anthony

    How about Altairnano’s Lithium Titanate battery – used for backing up renewables to ensure steady output. Can be cycled 15,000 times and is rated at 1MW power output with 250kWh of storage.

  • http://www.sequence-omega.net Anthony

    How about Altairnano’s Lithium Titanate battery – used for backing up renewables to ensure steady output. Can be cycled 15,000 times and is rated at 1MW power output with 250kWh of storage.

  • http://www.sequence-omega.net Anthony

    How about Altairnano’s Lithium Titanate battery – used for backing up renewables to ensure steady output. Can be cycled 15,000 times and is rated at 1MW power output with 250kWh of storage.

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